The House of Hope

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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.

 

 

Could it be ME?

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You enter the room again. You know you have to wait. You are just a number in a line. The doctor finally comes in and recommends another doctor and this pattern continues for 10 years. Your pain is insignificant to the giant medical beast. Your theories are trivial in the three minute intervals the doctor is allowed to spend with you. And you are left frustrated, hopeless and depressed.

But imagine…why are you having so many health problems? It is not old age…you are far too young still you are constantly seeing an onslaught of doctors, taking far too medications and  you find yourself having a surgery every year and a half for ten years.  There is a reason. And the reason is you.

You don’t go out to make problems for yourself. These problems are so embedded in your psyche that they are totally unknown to you. Yet they manifest. They must find a way to be freed from your heart and your mind therefore they creep up like some unwanted weed in what was once a beautiful garden. A place where you played and you loved. All the while, you have been depressed since the beginning of your toddler years.

And this is where I stand. Finally, after ten years of major surgeries and a lifetime of self medication I realized  the doctor can fix the symptom. But I am the problem.

Fear of abandonment takes someones heart and leaves it guarded; unable to accept love because your walls are too thick from the pain of yesterday. In fact, if I look closer, I see there is a pattern of people and experiences that I still dwell on as if they were happening now. Even if I was the person who left the friendship or relationship or vice versa, I struggle with people moving on without me. I struggle so much I make myself sick.

I am suggesting that anyone with chronic health issues consider that it may come from inside our brains and not our body. We all have a certain amount of energy we yield. We have the capability to change what form that energy takes through our actions, through how we love and to what degree to we love ourselves.

If you look closely, you might dislike yourself a lot more than you realized.  Although, this is a misinterpretation of the real you, it becomes part of you because you believe it. Plus your actions show it. But denial is very strong within us and we place labels in the wrong places.

My  great epiphany came when my friend wrote to me to discuss my upcoming total hip replacement surgery. Many months before he had a total hip replacement as well and we both agreed we had a propensity for yummy painkillers. He said not worry and he would get back to me. On the same day  I left the hospital after my total hip replacement I learned that he died in a drug related accident.

This was so painful to hear. And I grieved for sometime. I kept trying to wrap my brain around it and I knew it was drug related. I kept thinking , this could be you.  Yet I rationalized over and over again”I know I like pain killers but I am not having surgeries on purpose. The pain is real. There is solid evidence to support my need for the operations.” This was a thought that had twirled around my brain for several years. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I receive some message. It is you. You are making yourself sick. But I did not know why.

Instantly, I began to listen instead of think. I let a few walls down and felt an absorbent amount of pain I carried within me. In fact, it was too much and I needed to deal with it in doses. The answer would come…I was sure.

I began discussing this a few doctors who did listen to me. They agreed with me and they wished more patients could see their health difficulties for what they were instead of looking for the fix.

And I share this now because I believe I have found my reason. I was neglected as a child, my mother left our family when I was ten, I had some people cut me off from our relationships in my teens and early twenties and my father’s death was a form of abandonment that still seems beyond repair.In fact from that moment on my health became in decline. I see know coincidences.

Additionally,  I recognized long ago that I try to tap to someone’s tune before they even know they had one. It was highly important to me that a  person would like me and eventually depend on me. I do not share these examples to blame someone because that would be useless. I am saying these are facts; no one bears responsibility.

And just when I thought it was over, I had to have an abdominal hysterectomy.  But this time I suspected ulterior reasons. I spoke with a spiritual advisor and she listened to my theories and all of sudden she asked if I had ever been raped. I thought for a second and two repressed memories emerged.

I did have two situations where I could not be sure if it was rape or not. The first time, I was already making out with this guy for a few days but one night he was going full forward and I kept saying no, no, no. But he did it anyway and he never spoke to me again. On another occasion several years later I was screwing around with an old boyfriend. We always used condoms but one night I passed out and he had sex with me in my sleep with no protection leaving me pregnant and alone. I never looked at it as rape because I knew I had put myself in risky situations but I did not agree to either sexual encounter. And the hardest thing for me to bear was that a person would do that to me and leave. (Back to the initial issue of abandonment.)

She had me scream to the top of my lungs practicing some sort of primal therapy. And I screamed and I cried and I hit a pillow trying to heal. It was amazing to me that i held those two events I held in my reproductive system for more than 20 years. And then I felt free.

Today, I have a long way to go to get my health at normal levels. I have gained a huge amount of weight,  I have trouble walking and I am sleepy most of the time. But with baby-steps I will be back. The baby-steps are what it takes to show myself that I matter. I will have to fight the indifference and pain that I allow to be parasites in my body. But I will fight. I will fight to live and I will fight to live well. It is a blessing that I was able to be totally honest with myself for just one moment of clarity. I foresee other moments in the future.

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

Bye Bye Daddy

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You must understand that taking care of my father who had seven brain tumors, kidney and lung cancer was too much for me to bear.  But I had a grandiose sense that I could handle anything at that time in my life. Therefore when my father asked to move from his hospice in Moorpark, CA to my home in Portland, OR . I said “yes” immediately.

It didn’t matter that I had already experienced him having seizures on the street, or being angry that he was told to wear adult diapers. I had taken him to four hospitals in California in only six weeks, one in which he almost blew up the place because he tried to smoke with the oxygen on. It is clear I had no clue what I was trying to tackle.

So I said “yes” and my father and I boarded a plane via wheelchair and flew back to Portland.

Let this be said: even though, my father was neglectful…I know he did his very best to take care of us. He would always make sure we had breakfast and he would often cook dinner if he was home. He spoke to me as if I was an adult and we shared many conversations about life, consciousness, the ego and many other metaphysical ideas.

I quite enjoyed these conversations. But the fact of the matter was I overly adored my father. I was so impressed by his presence that I overlooked the little things like coming home to slamming cupboards and sitting silently for weeks in his chair. Plus he always denied that he smoked but I knew he did and we kept that charade going until his diagnosis.

I spent a lot of time wondering what his mood was going to be. I never knew when he was coming home or leaving and to this day I do not know where he went when he left the front door. I do know he was hilarious, smart and unconventional. He dazzled many who knew him. But I also knew he was very depressed and that he had an angry streak behind closed doors. It was interesting to watch the duality of his personality. And I always prayed he would be happy all the time.

When he came to my home my first husband and I set him up in the spare bedroom. There he remained fully drugged until his life ended.

The problem was I was his nurse. I saw him naked, I wiped his butt, I made sure he did not fall and I listened to him talk to me as if I was a stranger. He would look down my shirt and then realize he forgot I was his daughter. This became the norm in the house and I dealt with it the only way I knew how: drinking Zima and stealing his medicine.

But listen carefully. There is an unspoken secret that caregivers and family have with a terminally ill loved one. The secret is that we all begin to wonder when will it end. When will my loved one die already? This secret induces extremes amount of guilt that becomes suppressed and eventually manifests somewhere else in our lives.

Therefore when he was taking his last breaths and I was giving him permission to go, I was feeling relief. I did not know how much I would miss him everyday and how I would still cry often after a decade. I could not see passed the moment. And when our six-player CD shuffled onto “My Way,” by  good old blue eyes himself  he died.

I kept his body in his room so family members had time to say goodbye before he was burned to dust. A candle was lit beside him in some holy manner but it began to melt his skin.

And I was in shock. Complete and utter shock.

My dad always promised to make after death communications with me. I truly trusted in that. And the day that he died I walked downstairs to take a bong-hit and the music box he had given me years before played by itself from across the room for over a minute. “It had to be you, it had to be you, I wandered around and suddenly found some one so true….” And I smiled and said hello.

However, that day I broke into 1000 pieces. I would never be the same. Before me laid the work to put myself back together. And when I did something wonderful happened: I found humility. And in humility I found myself.

 

The Days of No Return

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After my father died, I went a little crazy. Actually, a lot crazy. If anyone has lost a parent especially the parent that raised you, then you will know the great pain and strange grief that unfolds after the parent’s death.

First of all, I was starting to get suicide ideation back. I could not stop picturing myself with a gun in my mouth blowing off my head. That started 4 months after he died. I finally went to an urgent care where I was introduced to antidepressants via sample packs. I did not understand at the time I needed to take the same amount every day so I would take 10mg one day, 100 mg the next and then maybe 25mg the following days. Nothing in my life was in order.

My first husband and I bought a house with some of my inheritance money. It was a small house that was perfect for he and I and our six cats. It was our little home and he worked hard to make it nice.

My first husband was not aware that I had started drinking up 15 drinks a day. I had been since I took care of my dad in hospice at my home. My ability to care about anything was completely lost. Therefore, when I was mixing my Zoloft with 15 drinks of alcohol a day and smoking pot, my decision-making was based on anything that would keep me numb.

The summer of 2000, my ex husband and I had gone to Italy for a wedding. When I returned from Italy…it was on!  Dinner parties at my house  became common. Drinks and laughter and mania continued and I really thought I was happy.

But this is when my hands began to shake. I had gone to enough AA meetings with my father to know that this was not good. But I could not stop. Alcohol was taking over my life. Eventually, after taking mushrooms and talking to some close friends, I came home and asked for a divorce. He was stunned. I was cookoo.

Immediately, after he left I called the guy I had been in love with over the course of my entire time spent with my ex husband. The guy had a girlfriend but for some reason I decided that he was my property and I had dibs. Not two days after we went out did he declare that he loved me. I wasn’t ready for a new relationship but who cares, right?

This guy could always read right through me and I had never had anyone so smitten over me at the time. Although, it is important to mention that this guy was an excessive alcoholic who could be compared to Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. But I had crossed a line that many other alcoholic people cross. The point of no return.

We stayed together for one year and half and he was extremely abusive. But I was not innocent either. Plus, he continued to see his ex girlfriend behind my back. And I unbelievably thought I was being wronged by her when I was the one who stole her boyfriend in the first place!

There were times the police came because we fought so loud. And TV’s were thrown out onto the lawn. My little house became a breeding ground of wild abandon with pot smoking, drinking, cigarettes and total delirium.

I was about to leave him when he came home one night to say he had cancer. I was far too loyal to leave anybody in that position so I waited.

Things got worse. I crashed my car, I maxed out all my credit cards and decided I did not need to pay my taxes. The promises of payments to some creditors for my ex husband and I became greater debts unbeknownst to him. And I lived in awful fear of doom and gloom where the mailbox was not my friend and I could no longer answer my phone. They turned off cable, the trash stopped and I could no longer make long distance calls. I could not see how far of a hole I was digging but the bottom was still far away.

In the end, I made a decision to move back to California where there was no greeting party waiting for me. I had lost my friends and I was not prepared for the trouble that awaited me.

Still…it went on until one day.