The House of Hope

children's parade.jpg

 

Culture shock placed my body in perpetual disbelief when I entered the House of Hope. I was now living with people I probably would not have spoke to in passing. Thank God for humility because I was no different from these ladies despite my drug of choice and the color of my skin.

“You’re my buddy!” This giant black woman announced and then she grabbed me and hugged me hard. She had done 10 months for fraud in the Twin Towers of Los Angeles. A wild look lit up her eyes. In fact, most people there had wild looks as I silently watched the group interact. The wild look in their eyes simply was early sobriety. And I had it too.

I was so sick. I compare my disease to thinking you have a cold when you actually have pneumonia. The more sober you become the more you realize how sick you are. And I was given the opportunity to get the help I needed with free housing, food and solid recovery.

“What is your story?”A woman asked and handed me a menthol cigarette.

I don’t belong here, I thought.

“I am an alcoholic.” I replied. I was actually the only alcoholic there. Most of the girls shot up heroin, smoked crack and experienced rock bottoms that I could not even imagine. We had prisoners, prostitutes and women who lost their children to the system all living together. I felt like I did not belong but that was far-fetched dream I call magical thinking.

The facts were I lost my car, my house, my friends, my money, my cats (all eight) and most importantly, I lost my ability to see right from wrong while I remained a bankrupt tax evader. How was I different from them? Addiction is color blind. It is socio-economically blind; it can creep into the nicest homes and destitute any family.

And I was there. With one bag and no where to go for three months. That night they had to look for a blanket and a pillow for me. The place was getting by on a shoe string and all the ladies signed onto welfare, general welfare and food stamps to help keep the place going. We shopped at the food bank and we became very blessed for the food we had.

My first night gave me a glimpse of what the next three months would hold. And while I was trying to go to sleep in a shared bedroom for six,  I could hear some girls making out nearby. I felt like I was in a movie.”What if someone approached me? I don’t even know how to defend myself!” However, I later learned these women were beautiful people.  The drug controlled their choices, my choices and our outcomes. I kept wondering how the morning would be in my brand new world where anything was possible as I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning I learned about chores. The chore rules were strict. Every chore was inspected and if you did not do it right, everyone would have to wait while you went back and tried again.

After chores we were shuffled into a van. I had no idea where we were going. I would soon learn that this was would happen often. But the women were laughing and happy. And even though I knew nothing about their backgrounds, I began to feel a sense of ease.

Little did I know we were being driven to a children’s parade down San Pedro’s version of Main Street. This was before Hippa but the staff responsibly painted clown faces on each of us and suited us in clown garb. It was like 90 degrees and we smoked menthol cigarettes as we waited for hours for our turn in the parade. Turned out… we were the finale. Our makeup had melted off our faces but we tried our best to funny and dazzle the crowd. The children seemed happy and so did I.

But, I was so sick as were many others but we did it. Service. Service was the key. In this self-absorbed world service will set you free. And I live by that now. And walking down the San Pedro Main Street smiling and waving at the children and their families was actually fun. I had completely forgotten what it was like to have fun without alcohol or drugs. And the act of service brought me joy! That was quite a surprise!

I still had three more months to live in this strange place. I had nowhere to go. It was the first time I had no other choice. And that is always the key with this disease because if I had just one more person to help me, or even the slightest ability to try something else, I would not have lived very long. Nor would any of these other women.

So the adventure began and I learned, lived and loved in an entirely different world.

 

 

Men Have Sex with Short Skirts And Marry Long Ones

long-skirts-19

 

Oh I can hear it now. People standing up in arms rejecting my hypothesis. But hear me out you little short skirt women because you have a lot to learn.

Women have been sexualized through time so they are attractive to a man. For marriage? No…for sex. The tops are tighter, the colors more slick and the make up is painted on as if a blemish doesn’t exist. We go to the gym. We don’t eat. We feel absolutely worthless when we hook up with some cute guy and he never calls again.

We laugh it off with our friends. Guys will be guys, right? Wrong. It is up to you ladies to decide if you want a man or a boy. Because a real man is secretly looking for a wife and he wants your beauty to be revealed not advertised.

I learned this the hard way. I would give out my phone number, asks guys out and even pay for their beers trying to be Gloria Steinem of our decade. Nothing worked. Finally, some guy tried to give me his phone number and I said you call me! And It worked and it continued to work until I found Mr. Right. You see the truth is the more someone invests in you the more they want to invest. Lets say that again, “the more someone invests in you the more they want to invest.” This is a proven strategy of persuasion.

For instance, he buys you dinner. What do you wear? A long flowing skirt and appealing top with some heel not stilettos. Don’t give it all away. This man will not be able to stare at your unbelievable body but they are sure likely to wonder. Instead…he talks to you. He gets to know you. And even more important, you get to know him. If you showed up with a leather mini skirt the whole date would be about lust. Flirting would be high but no one really gets a sense of who each other are when you are laying down four hours later in bed with him. WEAR A LONG SKIRT!

Throughout time  men instinctively are the hunters and the women are the gatherers. Is this sexist BS? Yes, but life is not fair and if you want your heart touched more than your boobs listen to me. Dress like wife material. After the wedding you can walk around naked to the store. He knows you by then. He knows you are not just a skirt.

Many will argue with me. But our biological make up always beats our ideals. I am not saying be a submissive woman. I would have none of that. I am saying be you without trying to be overly sexy. You are worth that. You deserve someone who will adore you and love you and always find you fascinating. That is over in one short skirt incident.

We must start where we are in life and in society in order to make change. The salmon who swims upstream often dies. Work within the system of this amazing life of love and stop throwing your brains out of window. We know you are smart but your actions say everything. Reach inside the system and change it within. And that starts with long skirts.

In essence, you will not find men in bars or clubs or even at the gym. Real men have jobs. Those places are where the boys play. Be patient my Long Skirt Woman and spend your time making your life better. He will come…just not on the first date. 🙂

The End

 

God is Orange

orange chair

I threw myself into alcohol oblivion while going to different bars hoping no one would recognize me from other bars in town. I was living with my best friend’s mom and she was nice enough to take me in and help me detox and provide much love that I desperately needed. She was a Eucharistic Minister that attended church everyday who was serving God by helping me. And it felt wonderful to be around someone who was not toxic but only held great concern for me.

It was the next day at her house that the truth about my alcoholism became utterly apparent. And one would think  that after the detox, the shakes, the sounds, the voices,the chills, sleepless nights and countless cigarettes that I would never dare touch the stuff again. But it didn’t take long for me to relapse and I started right where I left off; wanting to die.

I knew of one place I could go to get help but I thought I was better than those women. They were criminals and prostitutes with their kids taken away. I could not get help with this sort of foul-natured types. I was from Thousand Oaks. I was upper middle class and I was not about to go.

Jose, a busboy from work confronted me one day. “I saw you running in your car today.””Running?” I thought to myself. I had no clue what he was talking about. “I spoke to the Holy Spirit today and he said you are not one the right path. That God has other plans for you.” This was not what I wanted to hear.

Yet he was right, entries from my journal begged for death from this torturous life I was living. I could not see any way out. It was just a matter of time before I would end it.

A few nights later, I dreamed that I walked into “The House of Hope.” This was the place where the criminals roamed and the prostitutes taunted. But I walked in and the entire room was decorated with orange furniture with barely any room to actually move.

A woman asked, ” What do you want?” I answered in a soft voice that I was looking for the House of Hope. “You got insurance?” she asked. “No, I will go.” I said. “Now wait a minute I will be right back.”She shuffled through the orange furniture until she found her way out. All I could hear as she walked off was something extremely foreign to my ears.

When she left I noticed a radio. But what played from it seemed unfamiliar. It was like a thousand angels singing at once. Music so beautiful, I became mesmerized and I completely forgot the orange room with the firm lady and why I was even there in the first place. It was the loveliest sound I had ever heard in all of my life. No instruments, only acapella. And voices sung from the end of time out of the speakers of this old rusty radio that radiated the unconditional love that we all search for.

Then I woke up.

I could not shake this orange room dream. It was like no other. And for the next few nights when I woke up I felt like someone was holding me in my bed. But I was alone. Things were not making sense.

My best friend’s mom became aware I had relapsed. The feeling in the house grew cold.When I fist moved in all doors were open throughout the house and now they were closed. I was making the mom sick with stress. No one wants an active alcoholic in their home. Yet I had nowhere to go.

She finally confronted me one morning after I had a night where I blacked out and made a terrible mess in her home. I did not deny anything. But I was not about to go through withdrawals again without  being under the care of a doctor.

I was  accepted in the hospital and I shook and I sweat and I was scared and I was ashamed. The doctor gave me some Valium but when I went to sleep I dreamed of some snake man pushing me into a smelly swamp of serpents. “Is this where you want to be?” The Snake Man screamed. “Is this what you want?”

I actually woke up and I was sure that the doctor had given me LSD. But this was good old fashioned delirium tremens. Like many before me, I was experiencing hell on earth.

When I was finally released from the hospital I was pretty ecstatic. I had no cravings for alcohol and I was willing to do what it takes. I told my best friend’s mom that I was not going to call the House of Hope, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I just want to see if it is orange.

Down into the barrio I went. The streets of San Pedro shared great violence among its residents. But I had nowhere to go. And as I pulled up in front of this halfway house/rehab I could not help but notice two of the brightest orange chairs sitting outside the gate waiting as if to say hello. ORANGE. No doubt about it. Flawless beautiful orange.

And I was home.

 

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

In the mornings, looking over the Ventura sunrise, I began to show up at the grocery store to buy liters of gross white wine.I was thirty years old, I had very little money at that point  but I tru…

Source: The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

For Jason

heart image

You ask me if there were any happy times in my life and I struggle to answer. The truth is I have had many intermittent happy times throughout my whole life. Happiness is not a rite of passage onto this earth. It ebbs and it flows. It is not “the end all be all” for me.

Happiness comes to me through my relationships; memories that flash through my head like snapshots of which I am able to feel over and over no matter how much time has passed.

You know what I loved? I loved playing cops and robbers at Russ’s house with you and Shelley and Justin. I loved decorating you up like a Christmas tree when we lived in Santa Barbara. I loved hearing “I just called to say I love you,” by Stevie Wonder as Dad walked into the living room, I walked down the stairs and you walked in the door. We all sang in harmony and not a time passes that when I hear that song do I not I relive that joyful time.

I know you say you and I are are always overcoming things instead of getting ahead. If that is so, so be it. I do not question life anymore. I just try my best to live life on life’s terms. I never say “why me” because between the pain I have received handfuls of miracles.

I feel very blessed that we are so close. That we do not even have to speak to know what the other is thinking. We are a team and I love you more than anything on this earth. You make me happy. Paige makes me happy. Bailey makes me happy. Jenny makes me happy and so  on and so on.

We are not defined by critical moments although I choose to share about them now. We are defined by the love we experience. I remember one time I asked you how to keep love in my life. “You accept the love you are given and you give it back.” You replied without a hitch. I was twenty one at the time and I realized at that moment I was not able to accept love. A year later I met my first husband. You helped me evolve so I could be a person that accepts love. YOU DID THAT.

There is so much freedom in humility and one of the biggest rewards is happiness. I have the humility today to share my darkest secrets because I am strong and I am humble. Hiding who I am is never going to be my style no matter how many feathers I ruffle. I will go on being honest, choosing integrity and participating with love and by doing this happiness is always manifested.

You are my memory. That makes me happy. Don’t worry if I felt pain. Pain is part of the picture for growth to develop. Does it make me stronger? I am strong anyway. But love and happiness makes life feel amazing. And I treasure those moments.

And with that said…we are in this together all the way through and that makes me happy because I could not ask for anyone more unique and beautiful as you.