Gossip: The Social Weapon of Mass Destruction

"I hate gossip and I don't walk around lookin' for it, you know? But yesterday it seemed to just wander on till it found me.You know like, gossip found me, then why don't you try provin' itHow?
You don't know how to prove it? Well, what would you just do is:
Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop"

~ Lil Wayne

A group of "friends" helped get me sober. I still hang out with this group and it extends around the world. I would not be the woman or the mother I am without these people. Their humanity made me "a human being instead of a human doing." But sometimes the behavior of humans goes beyond alcoholic recovery into a soul-sickness. The rampant resentment oriented disease of; gossip.

My sons father lives out of state:always has:always will.
We met thirteen years ago while I was working way across the country in Savannah, Georgia on location for a film. Ten and a half years ago I moved back to Santa Barbara with my two year old son.Three weeks after I moved to Santa Barbara I got my first DUI. It scared me straight and I got sober. I have been sober for ten and half years and the people who helped me, have my gratitude and respect. Not to mention the officer that gave me the DUI. He saved my life!

I got a call last Saturday morning from a rather distressed woman...ranting,
"We want a paternity test, we need to know..."
Before she finished I stopped her and said, "what the hell! This is insane! My sons father lives somewhere else and my son is almost thirteen:there is no way your "partner" could be this boys father:who told you this?"

As if being a single mother is not hard enough. And living a life in sobriety is not hard enough. Still... people will talk. And the members of my group of "friends" are among the worst gossipmongers in the world. There have been two badly trafficked rumors about me. Both damaging and life altering. And to what end? I am not some rockstar that TMZ is hunting down to expose. So, I am going to "out" myself:"tell on myself" and "shelf" these two "rocks":so I can bless and release!

Rock One: I worked for a married couple when I was a couple of months sober. They had kids and a business. I helped with both. While I worked for them my car threw a rod needed a new engine. The couple offered to pay for the repairs and deduct the cost from my "wages". This went OK until the woman left the man, went out (drank) and filed for divorce. The man emptied all the joint accounts. (Something I warned her would happen)
So:.she was peeved and he was crazy.
Divorce, right?

I continued to work for both people, separately. It made me anxious, but I wanted to do the right thing, to finish what I started and I needed the income. The woman was having more and more difficulty staying sober and became rather erratic and agitated many times a day. One night I had a flat tire on my way to her house in Montecito and had to be towed and have a tire replaced, it took about two hours. She blew a fuse because I was late. When I finally got to her house a $100 lighter and grubby from the tire thing:all she could do was rant about how late I was.

About a week later I was watching the kids. Their father, who by now was under a restraining order from the wife, showed up and demanded to see his kids:.and then:he produced a gun. "Crap!" Now what? I had to call the police:the guy went off on me:threatened me:yelled about his wife:called me this and that. It was one of the worst days of my life!

Days later I got an offer to stay at a friends house in Santa Ynez while waiting for my new place to open up. Great news! I was feeling really anxious about being around these people. You are pretty shaky in your first year of sobriety and any good sponsor, therapist or priest will always say:
Keep It Simple, Stupid.

So at my friends and counselors suggestion, I wrote the woman a letter, I set up a payment schedule to pay her back and I left Santa Barbara to stay with my friends in Santa Ynez. Admittedly I left quickly and without talking to the woman or the man in person. I was scared. I was alone. I had had a horrible experience as a young woman with a gun and it left me damaged and afraid of guns: especially, men with guns. I wrote the woman periodically. At that point I was not making much money and would have to delay payments for about six months. I had been injured on a work site while working for her husband and the cost of medical treatment deducted from what I owed them would give me six months credit. It wasn't perfect, but I did try to make it work.

Life went on. I moved into my new home and I started a new job with a local clothing designer in the technical design department. My son was doing well and life was really good for the first time in a long time. One day while I was at work, papers were served to me from the woman. I went to court and after a failed attempt to mediate the judge agreed I would set up a payment plan. The woman confronted me at the courthouse and demanded I sell my car and give her the money now. She was really aggressive and I could tell she was cracking. I felt bad, I owed her the money and the best I could do was to pay her $150 a month until the debt was paid. In her despair and outrage she began a tirade of rumors about me. That I "stole" the money, that I abused her children and made advances on the Ex husband and was working against her with him. It was so heart breaking. She vented this poisonous pile of poo at many meetings. Many people knew she was nuts, but some, not knowing any better and falling prey to the gossip, believed her. Some would not speak to me at meetings or get up while I was sharing and walk out or even purposely exclude me from gatherings. I stayed sober anyhow. I did not defend myself because I knew I was responsible for my part. She was a woman with three kids and no money and I might do the same in my state of grief over a failed marriage and an inability to stay sober. I simply stayed away from the meetings where people were mean to me. I found new meetings.

I got a phone call one day from someone who had heard the gossip and who had defended me. He said he thought I should say something at meetings. But I thought, "why?", if people want to believe gossip they will.

This was all ten years ago. And until last Saturday, I had not felt the pang of being the target of the nasty rumor mill. It is the "stain" of what should be a group in support of each other, a group based on love and acceptance. The pitiful and demoralizing reality is that when you get a group of sick people together, sick things might happen.

Rock Two: Last Saturday I got a phone call from a woman asking me to subject my son to a paternity test. I decided, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! From what this woman told me there has been a rumor around town that my sons father is some how, the son of some screw ball I had a one nighter with in the my sixth month of sobriety. A real prize of a guy too. A loser with a charm that I am clueless and unable to recall now. A mistake. But not at the magnitude to which it has been described. I was informed that this rumor has been circulating for 5 YEARS. People have been "talking" and saying my son is his son. Can people count? I came to Santa Barbara with a two year old. I have no other birth-children. So instead of my son and me living a peaceful life.
Lives have been ruined, hearts broken and injustice served up in the bitter pill of gossip. And why? So someone had something to talk about? So someone could be the life of the party? Is it power?
My God! I think gossip is the single worst weapon of mass destruction in society. People destroy each other with words. They cause damage to not only adult lives, but to children. I am so freaking peeved at this. So disappointed. For all the good my sober society has done for me, the bad on the social-gossip-level is insidiously insane. A kind of cruelty I do not understand.

I am vowing here and now to stop the cycle of insanity. I promise not to contribute to the to the chain. I will be eco-friendly with my words. I will be conservative in the transfer of information about myself and others. I will be careful and thoughtful. If I have a problem with some one, I will be brave and tell them. I will avoid gossip as a weapon.

I have been hurt enough. I want to be a menche! A good human. A helpful human. A decent human. Humanity is life work. Restraint of pen and tongue is a great rule. Not every idea that pops into my head needs to come out of my mouth.
Error on the side of discretion and decency.
Be the change:and the change will happen.

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