The Crisis of Doubt

Hi 2021. How are you? Scattered, you say? Aw, well… I think most people feel that way these days. I, for one, can relate.

My thoughts and my actions and my beliefs are spread out in front of me, they aren’t currently contained. And with crystal-clear clarity I see them laying out, no – they aren’t within me. If they were all on top of a blanket, I could pick it up and shake it off and be left with a clean slate – hey, that might just be the answer.

The last few months of 2020 I spent a considerable amount of time noting all the things I didn’t get done. It wasn’t done in self-flagellation, but rather acceptance that I chose to do other things instead. Except that 50% of the time, I was asleep dreaming I was awake – so how much of a choice I had can be left for debate. I went through motions day in and day out, life on cruise control. While I cruised, the end of the year came like a fatal stop sign, the period at the end of a book, the PS to a letter I didn’t want to read.

Here is the thing.

The things I wanted things changed. Suddenly, my entire DNA evolved – my desires craved a life I didn’t have. The life… I knew it was improbable. Also, I didn’t know if God wanted it for me, so I didn’t say anything. Still, I schemed to make it happen. My mind folded in on itself trying to make it all work and instead, I just got a skull full of crumpled thoughts. So, I gave up. I’ll always be indebted to people who pulled favors, that I’ll never be deserving of all the things I take for granted… This is just who I am and I can’t do any better.

Part of me wants to share the miracles that unfolded when I gave up, but part of me doubts that any of it is still happening. God is good, isn’t He? His faithfulness is beyond my comprehension. This isn’t because I got what I wanted. It isn’t because I behaved and I was a good girl so now I’m rewarded. Its because I was struck by my beliefs that were killing me, and my ego was sprouting up again and I had no capacity to cut it back down to size.

The miracle is that my wants changed to what (I see now, I think) God wants for me. The reason I think these are God’s desires for me is because they surely aren’t mine and haven’t been for a long time. But then it was all I wanted. When I finally arrived at that conclusion, He made it happen in only the effortless and light way that God can. There is nothing I could’ve done to control how it all turned out. There is nothing I could’ve done to make it all any better.

It is true what it says in “Abundant Living” about humans being created to be Christ-like, it is the most natural thing in the world for us. But when we overthink it and get influenced by our society, we stray. We miss the mark. We transform the easy path in front of us into a life-threatening hike across the opening of a volcano and then lament that this walk to the grocery store is just so hard.

It feels bad when I go against that divinity I’ve been given. Its much easier to follow it and reject the world than it is to reject the divinity and follow the world. JK, no its not. I mean, in the grand scheme of things it is but in the moment, who wants to go against the world? Exhausting.

But yet, it happens. Its happening. And I didn’t even really have to do anything but ask God to help me. And He showed up.

This isn’t why I “believe” in “a god” – this is how I know God.

Break through the walls, beat down the doors, crash through the windows + c o v e r t h e e a r t h

The tattoo on my wrist says CREATE. I got it when I was nine months sober. The little flesh and ink promise that the rest of my life would be spent making good on this earth, instead of robbing people and the world of it.

This blog documents moments of nostalgic pain and destruction. Still, I haven’t found a word in the entire english language to describe the millions of ways I died in my alcoholism. The habitual spiritual deaths that occurred with every breath.

The mental obsession of not breathing.

The physical unwillingness to breathe.

But, here I am. After 3 years, I still grieve for the girl I could’ve been had I stopped at 20, or 25, or even 30. Who could I have been if I hadn’t destroyed her?

There’s no guarantee I would’ve been ok. So at least living in the present, the path that I took, I know I ended up ok for now. There is a solid feeling that I’ve made some stuff and helped some folks, creating a space of love of others and finally, myself.

But while I was doing that, I realized, I can’t keep making more and more goodness. My God – this world is overdosed on self-thought and distraction. I do not need to add more to it. How can things get better without adding good to the world? Well, we destroy the bad, of course!

When I went through the 12 steps of AA, I realized that doing all this work and admitting my faults and making amends was NOT about “becoming a new woman.” It was actually a process of destruction to rid myself of all the things that kept me from being the woman I already was – a child of God.

Already, I am full of love (and you are, too.)
Already, I am full of joy (and you are, too.)
Already, I am full of peace (and you are, too.)

But one broken heart, one disappointment, one bold resentment – and I’m cut off from accessing the good that is already inside of me. (And you do this, too.)

As I’ve worked with women through the step work and watched them shed all these old lies and identities they picked up because they didn’t know how actually awesome (defined as: extremely impressive, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, miraculous, etc, etc, etc) they were, I die a little bit more. Because I want to believe AA is a hoax sometimes, that the God idea just makes me “feel” better, that my imagination saved me.

Bricks won’t hold it in. Lies won’t hold it down. Love will let it out and we will let it drown the darkness, fears + brokenness, can you feel it now? Let it cover you.

Have you ever been in a dirty bedroom with a someone who was one night away from killing herself? Then locked yourself in a hospital dining room six feet away from her, listening to every written resentment that kills her with every breath, every day? Then given her instructions to take it all to her God – whatever she imagines That to be – and tell that Power that she’s willing to let go of the beliefs, delusions, behaviors, that ruled her life? Then hear your phone ring from an unknown number only to have it be her? And have you ever felt electricity running through the earpiece as she speaks, sending shock waves of Power through your skin as you remember – This is why I got sober.

To see, hear, and feel that moment that someone takes their soul back and surrenders it all over again to a Power that wants to use it for good. Sometimes I forget I made that same surrender. But moments like that make me obsess on it and seek it out like, well… an addict, I guess. 🙂

And if all that could happen with one “throwaway drunk” don’t you think it could happen with so many more?

Could you imagine if the non-drunks did this, too?

What would the world look like if we could all breathe deeply, look eachother in the eyes, and not have anything to hide? From ourselves or from each other? Wouldn’t that be Heaven on earth?

So, Create is still my motto – sure. But I’m not so afraid of destruction anymore now, either. If I had it my way (God, are you listening?) I’d find a way to destroy the delusions that keep us separated from each other. I’m not there yet. But if/when I do – this song will totally be the soundtrack to that moment – enjoy! 🙂

So let the Spirit rise up, let it break through the walls, and beat down the doors, and crash through the windows and cover the earth.

I’ve seen it before, felt it before. Peace I can’t explain, love that won the war is here now. Can you feel it now? Let it cover you.

Your love is fearless, help me to be courageous, too.

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” – Anne Lamott

I won’t claim to be an enlightened individual. Mainly because if you’re reading this, you likely know me and could call me out on my several thousand spiritual flaws. My humanness. But I will say the desire to want to be enlightened flutters daily from heart to brain in this 5 foot 2 inch body of mine.

My fears still get ahold of me, though. The all-or-nothing, black-and-white, yes-or-no thinking begins to call the shots. Everything is an absolute, there is no need for context — I already know. When that happens, the possibility for miracles — the miracles I need — gets snuffed out. Just that fast, just like that. *snap*

The date of the third anniversary of my sobriety gallops towards me and I think, Are you sure you’re coming for me? Are you mine? Does that date belong to this alcoholic?

Time just isn’t a good measuring stick to use for this kind of stuff. A year is a year is a year. Am I better for it, I guess? But the reality sets in that this spiritual malady never. goes. away. A reprieve, yes. Twenty four hours — I know, I know. But also, what about all those times I didn’t rely on my Higher Power? All those times I curtsied politely and said, “Thanks but no thanks, God. I’ll do this my way,” turned back back to walk right smack into an infinite loop of regret and still worse choices.

Not a drop of alcohol, not a pill swallowed — yet still, desperate to feel something different. To be someone else. Chasing a high I didn’t know I didn’t need.

If I don’t get this, then I’m not that. If I can’t feel this, then what is the point. Why try, why try, why try? Why believe anything could ever change?

That last thought: the inebriated final call of self-will. So short-sighted. So delusional. So drowned in self-pity and self-interest.

The truth is I want to believe. Otherwise why would I care that I didn’t?

Things can change. Things will get better. And I know I’m speaking in vagueisms and that can be annoying but believe me that this is the constant state I am in during this season of my life. The solution remains the same, it is always the same. If I ask God to help me believe, He will.

Just. Like. That. *snap*

I’ve been playing dead my whole life.

I saw a dead owl today. It was stiff and on its back. Two legs stuck out of it, the feathered blob. It was on a path behind me as I walked my dogs. The path separates the manicured field from a small wild creek. At first, I thought of the internet meme that shows an owl sleeping on the ground. “Did you know owls sleep like they just got back from a night of partying?” the caption said. Probably in Comic Sans. But which way was that… face up? Or face down? I couldn’t remember. For a second I thought – Yeah, it’s just sleeping. It’s nap time, duh. 5 pm. It has rodents to rest up for. Party Owl stays up late. Creatures like this don’t die alone. Not like this, in the suburban wild, in this type of stillness.

But no, then I remembered – the meme was funny because owls sleep face down. Well, this one was face up so I guess it wasn’t sleeping. Anything with that many feathers should look regal. Instead, it was a caricature of an owl that wasn’t wise enough to escape death.

Last week on my walks, I kept seeing bluebirds. My dogs sniffed the trunks of trees and my eyes wandered to the branches. Bluebirds fluttered there, the sun highlighting their shimmers of blue. Never could get a good photo of them. A friend told me to see bluebirds was a sign of joy and prosperity to come. That was the meaning of seeing a bluebird. This was the significance of being a witness to a bird with blue wings.

The owl didn’t look very significant. Wondered what that meant. Unless it was used as a prop of my lost wisdom then, maybe. Who determines these things? Who adds the meaning? My dogs still hadn’t noticed the corpse. Their noses buried in grass, contentedly inhaling ants. They didn’t move as I pulled them away from the owl’s last rest. Finally, in what could be considered animal abuse, the harnesses that held their little bodies lifted them up and away as I grabbed them each like six packs of beer and marched across the field. Tiny chihuahua legs mimicked a walk but they dangled mid-air.

 As we left the carcass behind, a group of children ran by us. Coppola, my smaller dog, growled and barked at their laughter. Personally, I couldn’t stand the sound either. But there’s no use in warning them, Coppola. Eventually, they’ll find out about death. Leashes tangled as I finally set the dogs down, a safe distance completely across the field. As I worked to loosen the knot, a child’s shriek pierced the sky. Children started to form a semi-circle around the owl. Once dignified but never again to be significant, that owl. Then silence. 

The leashes untangled and a child whimpered, “Mom!” 

And honestly, that reaction made the most sense to me. Moms are good to call to soothe the oddball horror that can only be felt and never described. She comforts when mourning strikes, standing in line at the grocery store, grieving for security the world can’t supply. When the Burden is too heavy, it steals my breath as it suffocates – yes:  MOM!

Later, I looked up the bluebirds in San Diego and found out they weren’t bluebirds at all, they were scrub jays. Scrub jays. Wasn’t it the great musical trio TLC who said, they didn’t want no scrubs? Well, neither did I. There was no romantic significance of seeing a scrub jay. I checked.

That was significant to me.

And I get this feeling
Whenever I feel good
It’ll be the last time.
ICU – Phoebe Bridgers

The Biggest Worst “Decision” to get a 3rd DUI

There is no excuse for driving drunk. Let me be clear.

For true change to happen, for people to stop being reckless with their own lives at the expense of others, the way we talk about mistakes like these would have to change.

It baffles me that to this day, someone will say I made the decision to drive drunk. Maybe the first time, or the trillionth time, but by that time — it wasn’t a choice. It was my life. On a daily basis I was engaged in behaviors that put me and others at risk. Or at the very least, would severely concern my parents.

There was not another way to function at the time of my third DUI. I was given every opportunity to be a happy healthy individual and still, the true CHOICE I made was to not. get. help. I refused to believe I was living in a way that was “wrong”. My alcoholic life seemed the only normal one.

By the grace of God and the human angels he’s placed in my life, I’ve been able to see there is another way. Through tremendous amounts of work and mercy, many old beliefs and behaviors have been abandoned to transformed to support living a healthy and meaningful life.

I was all covered in sound when you asked me to turn it down…

It’s two o clock on a Friday afternoon and my nose is red. It would be red on a Monday morning, too. Or a Wednesday night. But it’s bothering me more now because I wear a mask in public to keep safe from a virus and I understand that importance but I’m still vain at times and it annoys me that the rough cotton rubs off my overpriced foundation. My nose is red because I have rosacea. It’s nothing interesting. There is actually a subtle joy I have to complain about such a stupid thing.

Actually, right now I’m staring at my red nose in my driver side vanity mirror. My car is perched over what I imagine is a bottomless pit of metal and mystery. The oil change I’m finally getting is 3,200 miles overdue. I meant to throw away the remnants of the Valvoline sticker semi-reminding me (and alerting the oil change guy) that I’ve slipped back into irresponsible habits bound in excuses and lack of motivation to care for myself.

My last car was a Beetle and I drove it to. the. ground. It still ran pretty well in the end, I guess. Part of me wanted to keep it for actual sentimentality, a feeling I can only conjure up when cars and pets are involved.

The windows stopped working in the middle of a storm when I was running a fever and God said, “Are we done with this yet?” and I littered highways from San Diego to Arizona with my headlights that would spontaneously crash on the asphalt if I hadn’t duct taped them in place well enough.

My cars and I were always in tune though. When my life was going well, my car ran well. When I was running around in a flurry of chaos, my Beetle would spontaneously malfunction. It was an accumulation of accumulations: neglect on avoidance on top of denial and self-reassurance that I didn’t have to listen to that knock on my engine, I can just turn the music on louder. Or I didn’t need protection from the rain when my window won’t go up, it’s time I buy a better raincoat anyway. And so today, in the middle of a work day, I decided this can’t go on and 3,200 miles over I’m getting my oil changed now.

And right now I’m finding joy at this drive-thru oil change place. The guy is very friendly and even his calling me sweetheart hasn’t rubbed me the wrong way. We are very different looking people and our lives probably wouldn’t intersect for any other reason than he provides a service that I need. He possesses a skill that I lack and have no desire in learning. It is an act of rebellion to have my oil changed. When my work cell hasn’t stopped ringing since 7am and the numbers in my inboxes are nearing to triple digits.

This here, me in a hot car in a drive-thru oil change, making small talk with a largely-bearded and tattooed thin man, writing down my thoughts, while the world kills itself over who is holier than thy, and I’m wearing a (now, sweaty) yellow shirt that says, “trying my best.”

And I am.

Post-car maintenance.

This might all be gone tomorrow.

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As a child, I think my parents did what parents do and tried to protect me from everything that could harm me. God bless them for trying.

Sometimes this preoccupation was so grand, that seeing my discomfort seemed to cause uneasiness in them and whether or not this is true, it felt like my ending my discomfort was more important than making me comfortable.

There were very few times I could remember being told to suck it up and realize that I’m not going to get my way all the time. Very often, I did get my way. This wasn’t just with my parents either, this was at school, with teachers, at work with bosses, with boys and relationships, even in rehab with counselors. I always found a way to manipulate my discomfort away.

But how did that serve me? It didn’t, really. It just used up my energy to avoid a feeling of displeasure that regardless of it’s origin, was always going to be temporary if I’d just suck it up and adapt. But being adaptable isn’t as valued as being comfortable. Comfort rules everything around me. This American culture thrives on independent comfort and we revile anyone telling us to sacrifice a little so someone else can feel some comfort, too.

Then I got into recovery and dug up every thought and idea that brings me discomfort and I sat with it. You know, something that Pastor Miles at the Rock Church in San Diego always says is, “God didn’t make you to be happy, He made you to be holy.” And it’s true. So much of my life’s energy was spent changing what was going on around me so that I could be happy. But how permanent is that if everything is always changing? Things needed to change on an internal level so that I could walk through whole (and holy) regardless of the ever-changing discomforts around me.

Since getting into recovery and growing in my faith, I really do understand now, I don’t need to have my discomfort removed. Really, I can thrive in discomfort – I can overcome when I rely on God to steady me as I limp through uncomfortable situations, half-rolling my eyes out of annoyance and half-hoping I get through the situation holier and set apart – closer to God and out of the discomfort.

The entire world has been in varying shades of discomfort for… always. It has always been this way. We are just more closely identifying the source of our discomfort as a society and it’s bringing to light the outliers, the radicals, the ones who cannot name discomfort even though it’s on every breath they take and every drop of perspiration as they sit in anxious thoughts of doom and gloom. This discomfort is alive and tingling in every cell and it’s pushing mouths to move and hands to type and sometimes the words aren’t friendly and sometimes they don’t attach themselves to reality and I just have to wonder, I really have to wonder: What would you do if this was all gone tomorrow?

Would any of it be worth your anxious thoughts? Your evil deeds? Your fiery words? Your tense heart? Your paralyzing doubt? Your second and third and fourth thoughts?

If these questions are too uncomfortable for you to consider, then I will give you the easy out. I will give you the answer. I will remove your discomfort. Read on.

The answer is:

No.

So just walk it out. Get through this. Do the thing that makes you uncomfortable. Open yourself up to hurt. Vulnerability is a muscle and it’s never weak, it’s only open to not being the strongest one in the room.

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No, I’m not afraid of hard work/And I did everything I want

I just got done telling God I feel like I’m in line, waiting at the DMV trying to get my license reinstated. Not sure how long I’ll be waiting, not sure if I’ll pass the driving test, but looking forward to what’s ahead. One step closer, one step closer… but geez, I hate waiting.

It’s okay, I’ve gotten better at it. This doesn’t make me less grumpy. Just quieter. Not really in the mood to talk because I have to anticipate what wild thoughts God has in store. His plans are really that – wild. I feel like he’s a great best friend/father who I tell in a tired delirium, “You know what would be so cool? To have a pet elephant!” Then opening my front door and seeing a baby elephant on my doorstep.

Super cool but like, I don’t know anything about elephants, God. What do I do with it? Is this one of those tests where you give me what I think I want and it turns out to be a nightmare? Bc I don’t like that movie, it always ends badly and I’m always the villain.

Anyway, after moping around and poking God for some progress, today there was some.

I’m still staring at it wondering what to feed it. What do I do with this one extraordinary life?

Just go where God takes me, I’m more than okay with that.

*shrugs and follows*

We do not seem to be getting to the point.

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There is a piece I am supposed to be writing about relationships that is due in three days. Just like my relationships, there have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I avoid it all together.

In a moment of brilliance, I thought it’d be good to go back to my first boyfriend. Document that patterns that it had created, the fondness and nostalgia that being a teenager in a relationship evoked. Except, that if I look at it with the most honest eyes I can, the patterns had already been set. We were merely playing our roles.

Last year, a former “fling” of mine died by an apparent suicide-by-cop in the desert, only two miles from my regular go-to getaway in Joshua Tree. We had not kept in touch over the years, it had been at least 12 years since I’d seen him. He’d kicked me out for being drunk and rude. The last things I’d said to him had been awful.

Big deal, everyone has someone like that in their life, I assume.

The thing that troubled me is that only three months prior he’d reached out to me. Out of nowhere. Sent me his address and phone number. The same address that would show up in the newspaper articles where his…. “being”…. stopped.

I had started writing essays on each former fling and love interest.

You’d think that for being 34 and single, there wouldn’t be much to write about. Or maybe you’d think there was more. I won’t tell you how many there are, and I likely won’t share any of those essays. It is a complicated thing to look back at a relationship and see that all I could see in it was myself. Where had I been wrong? Where had I been right? What did I lose? Who did I hurt? How had I been hurt? What had I hoped to gain?

The essays turned out to be less about the boys and the men, and more about my ego and self-obsession. There were very sweet, special memories that feel uncomfortable and undeserved. I am prompted by guilt to find the gentlemen on social media and make sure they went on to live normal happy lives. Yes, many of them did. Some of them, I can’t find. A few seem to be exactly the same.

There is, of course, a common and delicate thread that is woven throughout most of those relationships which now almost looks like it’s colored neon. The moments I picked the fights, the ideas I didn’t want to adopt, the times I slammed doors and declared, “This is over.”

It was always those delicate and brief moments when the person sitting across from me, probed my eyes looking for a reason I behaved the way I did. They wanted an explanation I couldn’t give. It was a general interest that did not make them run, but instead, begged of them to ask if it was okay to stay.

As you could imagine, I was fine making relationships all about me: except when it became about me. My insecurities and shortcomings were not suitable topics of conversations. In fact, if it was even slightly hinted at that I had some work to do to be a suitable partner, we broke up. You could not expect me to do work on myself when you were the one who chose to be with me. So we both suffered.

Until someone called it quits, anyway.

Being able to see that dynamic from a distance of many years, has been important as I consider the future. Of course, all this self-work has ruined my ability to view an interesting man as anything but an interesting human. Oh, so interesting.

So interesting that now I’ve become involved in their well-being. What a novel concept. The one I’m not always invited to but now I grow concerned by. Why does this guy have these weird responses to money? Why does he care about his hair so much? What’s his relationship to his dad like? Why can’t he hang out with me without smoking like he has a spare set of lungs stashed away somewhere? Why don’t any of his stories make sense?

Did it start as a child when he got picked last? Was he bullied or the bully? Did this all stem from neglect as a child? Why doesn’t he have baby photos? Was his mother a narcissist? Is this why he’s attracted to me – some Oedipian manifestation, a need being satisfied? Where does he find his identity? What is his identity? Is he going to mind if I don’t see him the way he sees him?

 

The point is that we’re missing the point.  There have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I will avoid it all together.

 

He took the easy way… What was the easy way?

If she weren’t writing in blood, she’d bring him her jokes, a new liver, and a shovel for the mud. If he were not knee-deep in mud he’d bring her his drugs, he’d get her a typewriter.
Metric, Grow Up & Blow Away

Happy Quarantine, hope everyone is well! While hundreds of thousands of people are dying and millions more are battling for their lives and a country tears itself apart over money and money and money, I felt like focusing on something selfish and infinitesimal.

During this strange shift in the world, I have experienced a multitude of personal shifts as well.
As most people have.
As is to be expected when everything ordinary is turned upside-down and inside-out and roughed up a little bit.

I am grateful for my alcoholism at this time. When my life was constantly run on fear and bad unreasonable decisions based on those fears, I begin to realize how dumb that is. How short-sighted. How human. Or someone else will remind me.

But I don’t wanna be human, I wanna be holy, I wanna be different, I wanna be divine… like I was meant to be.

So then I go through the process of really analyzing those fears. What feels threatened? Is it a real threat? What happens if the thing comes true? Who am I? What does it mean to me? To you? Does it mean anything at all?

Then I could see how everyone’s vision is clouded by fear. Are threats real? Do dangers exist? Of course. But what can I do about it? Only what I can do and that is not a lot besides stay home and praise God and yell at my parents to sit their asses at home. (Ice cream is NOT essential, you guys! ugh, so annoying…)

I started this post to talk about lying and ended up talking about fear. But the two aren’t extremely unrelated. Just bear with me while I make the journey.

Since getting sober, I’ve become straight up magical at detecting lies. I have been given an intuitive gift (haha) that probably everyone has but that I’ve only now begun to listen to. (Yes, everyone has this gift.) I used to get mad when I would be lied to. Now I get sad.

I don’t get sad for myself, but for the person who is unable to recognize truth or the value of it. I know what that place feels like, to be so disillusioned with the world you begin to create your own. It can be the only thing making life bearable. Which was what I did. And in my made-up reality, everyone else owed me, everyone else was out to get me, and I never did anything wrong. And if I oh-so-humbly admitted with grace and price to some wrong doing, it was undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg for the garganuant lie beneath the surface I was too blinded by shame to name.

In this quarantine, as I’ve been having to talk to more people for my own sanity, these red flags pop up. I shoo it away, because it ruins the conversation to ask too many questions. And also, isn’t it just enough to know someone is lying? Do I really need to make a conscious effort to name their lie when they probably won’t even be able to recognize it?

So I listen patiently, “Oh yes, really – mhmm, no I didn’t know that… so interesting…” and I hear their voice tell a story they believe, or want to, and at some level believe that I want to believe, too. The fear that they aren’t enough, that they need more, that they need to entertain… I wish I could tell them it’s not worth the trouble. For me or anyone else.

Embrace yourself. Be alone. Trust God.

Love someone that isn’t you… for once. And do it selflessly.

“Maybe a mouse gets to thinking pretty early on how the whole world is run by these enormous feet. Well, from where I sit, I figure the world is run by one thing and this one thing only. Panic with a dog-face, devil-face, hag-face, whore-face, panic in capital letters with no face at all—it’s the same Johnny Panic, awake or asleep.
His love is the twenty-story leap, the rope at the throat, the knife at the heart.
He forgets not his own.”

Sylvia Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Everyone so intimately rearranged.

How do people live without reverence?

When I first got sober, I used to laugh at meetings when they’d say something like, “I’d get on my knees” or “I’d hit my knees” (okay, I still laugh) as I imagined inappropriate things amidst a very spiritual talk.

But have you ever fallen on your knees with complete reverence? I have. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was bad.

The first time it happened, I was eight or nine years old. My body was racked with terror, every cell was on guard. My soul fled my body. I lost control. My knees buckled and I collapsed on tiny knee caps and went straight for the Manager when I yelped out a prayer, God, please help!

That wasn’t me falling on my knees in reverence of anything holy. That was me as a child and scared. It was the beginning of a relationship with fear that would last for a few decades. It set the foundation for a life without safety or security, with horrors my little brain produced in constant fashion, my personal manufacturing-plant of fears.

Now I can see I wasn’t in any real danger. But I lived for a long time thinking that I was.

In fact, I began to seek danger. I created situations that made that energy and fear pulse through me like gasoline: I was toxic, I was combustible, my mere presence was an indicator that something was wrong.

Eventually, my own body grew exhausted. It collapsed on it’s knees in reverence to Surrender. I could not keep up. The faint sense that I should be amped up constantly lingered in my little newly sober brain, though. Where was the drama? The excitement? Where was the pulsating danger reminding me I was alive but should have died?

Instead, other people around me died. And they died rapidly. Sometimes it was only a spiritual death, but the light left their eyes all the same. I won’t attend your funeral either way, sorry. I won’t fall on my knees in reverence to your death. I’m not interested in pretending you were saintly and flawless. I like the messy you, the grumpiness and pain, the biting humor, the advice you gave that I never asked for…

It could be the grief catching up to me, the mourning I tried to outrun, but I’m seeing all those lives now in such a different light. Each of the lives I’ve known, of others and my own, don’t just illuminate my future. They highlight and explain it, like a blacklight on a dirty carpet — ohhh, I see that there, that filth, that debris...

Now I see what I need to do.

Now I see how each of the words I’d exchanged with every soul that was lost carried meaning. Sometimes it was that it meant nothing. That still means something.

Sometimes this grief, this guilt of surviving when I tried everything to die, shakes me awake. I could be walking at the park reading chalk on the sidewalk, or sitting at a red light wondering where the lady in the car next to me is going all dressed in black. I could be hanging up a phone call with a person I couldn’t make happy, or listening to a song I used to soothe myself to sleep when the booze wasn’t enough.

I could simply be sitting across from you, with your holy story and the heart that withstood it, and smile. Oh, the coffee is cold, oh, the music is loud, can I see the pimple on your nose? Your furrowed brow and your sarcastic laugh. These trivial moments that don’t seem like much but…

When you smile you are genuine — you are so present and you don’t know how brilliant that is. Your heart, you haven’t even begun to see it’s resilience.  As we leave each other, on good terms or on bad, I do — I fall on my knees in reverence of you and every cell bows in within me.

For the souls that the good Lord has blessed me in knowing, for the spirits that have awakened me, for the angels that never knew they were doing their job. I collapse in awe of all the wonder we don’t stop to see, in you, in me, in the air that we breathe, in the streets that we walk, in the hands that we shake, in the words that we speak.

The wonder is so imposing I almost can’t get up.

Anger is the weapon of the powerless [PART 2]

In the course of the past year, I have gotten angry exactly three times.

Angry to the point where my chest tightened, my breath became shallow, and the thought “I would not regret if this person died today” crossed my mind. Maybe the thought “I need a drink” came up, maaaybe. Certainly every cell in my body pulled me to exit the situation and run and burn some bridges on the way.

Luckily, thanks to years of DBT and AA (…and GOD), when resentful thoughts become constant companions in a hot shower, during a delicious meal, amidst a long drive, when brushing my teeth, etc… I am able to recognize that I better check myself before I wreck myself…

Two of these instances were work-related. The other was related to my writing, sorta.

Was I genuinely mistreated in all three situations? Yeah, actually. There were legitimate reasons for me to feel the way I felt. My boundaries were not respected I was degraded I was lied to. I ran it by some people that have been known to say I was at fault for stuff and no, they totally agreed. But if you know anything about AA, you know you gotta look at your part, too right?

What could possibly be my part?

Did I have reasonable expectations of others when they did not know I had these expectations? Ehhh…

Do I find it objectionable to put my well-being in the hands of people that have already shown me they were unsafe? Um, yeah.

Why should my well-being ever be in the hands of others? Does it feel good to be validated? Yes, totally. But do I lose my value if it turns out someone’s compliments on my writing was actually just a ploy to get into my pants? No, I don’t think I do.

I have learned over the past year to be careful who I give power to. I don’t have the luxury of indulging in anger. For me, it’s the difference between hearing God and not. For me, it’s the difference between staying sober and not.

IMG_8890 2

This is fiction.

jonathan-meyer-eaU0tA0xTxI-unsplash

The pastor of the megachurch started.
“Imagine having a father who loves you so unconditionally that no matter how many times you mess up, you can’t be separated from his love. How would you live if that you had the love of a father like that?” he said.
His hands gestured emphatically, the air punctuated with fervor. I’d been mesmerized by that choreography. It was far more interesting than the boring scenario he’d proposed. My dad loved like that. But the family therapist at the first rehab I’d attended had seen things a little differently.

“This is very codependent behavior,” the family therapist said.
“Yes, he is,” I had said. Through DUI’s, totaled cars, stolen twenty-dollar bill by twenty dollar bill – I couldn’t get my father to give up on me.
“Not him,” the therapist said,
Interested and curious, I’d shifted to look at my mother. Well, I’d never seen her this way before, but…
“He means you!” my sister said. She hated confrontation and part of me was impressed with her outburst.
“If my daughter needs help, I’m going to help her. I don’t know what you expect me to do. Leave her in jail? I’ll bail her out. If she’s in the hospital, we’ll go visit her. What do you suggest I do, doc? Let her kill herself? Nah… You must not have any kids. You have kids? Go fuck yourself. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” my dad said.
The therapist was unphased by all of this and wrote down some notes on a yellow notepad. My dad was right. What was he supposed to do, let me suffer the consequences of my actions? I agreed with my father. And this made me angry.
“He’s not a doctor, you idiot,” I said.

The pastor went on to say that we could have our very own father just like the one he’d described. I imagined the Oprah episode when everyone in the audience gets a car — You get a loving father! And you get a loving father! And you
Gawwwwd,” the pastor said, “is that Father.”
There was a dramatic pause. A lady in the row in front of me pulled out a tissue from her fanny pack. I saw her shoulders rise and fall with each of her soft sobs. I was glad the megachurch was air-conditioned and dark. My head hurt. The night before had been spent doing things anyone else in that church building would have begged forgiveness for. But what did I need forgiveness for? I hadn’t saved up brownie points for an eternal retirement in a Heaven I couldn’t imagine. I was vomit-deep in Hangover Hell more often than not. The only reason I was even in church was to play my “good girl” act to my boyfriend’s mother’s harrowing “helicopter mom” act. (Except hers wasn’t an act.)

Asking forgiveness meant I wanted to do good but oops, I did bad instead. Asking forgiveness insinuated I wanted to behave as others hoped and expected. But I didn’t want that. It would mean I wanted to deserve the love of my father or anyone else that showed me. His intolerable love that never came stamped with any seal of judgment. His blissful encouragement that I would feel better someday soon. Out of pride, selfishness, or ignorance, I had a hard time surrendering to any option that meant I had to surrender to being wrong.

The reaction of the churchgoers around me made me uneasy. Tears made me nervous. It occurred to me that this room of almost three thousand people, souls if you will, might not have had real-life fathers willing to save them from themselves. Did this make it easy for them to want to imagine a God that loved them? Or did it make it impossible? My resentment toward my father’s unwavering love made the love of God seem repulsive. Things would get worse between me and God before they got better at all.

I sat at a cold round table in a room that reminded me of my elementary school. Shiny green linoleum and stale air-conditioning, a sterile and overly used environment. I ran my fingertips over the cold metal chain locked around my waist. Everything in jail was cold.
Family members of other inmates began making their way toward the round table that held their own imprisoned loved one. My parents found me. They looked so tired, so out of place. It had only been two months. Granted I’d never been away from them that long but, how did they age so quickly?
The deputy came around to each table, removing inmate hands from the cuffs chained to our waists. I hugged my mom. She was warm and smelled like mom. Chanel No. 5 and translucent powder. She wore new earrings.
I hugged my dad. He was warm and smelled like dad. Deodorant, mints, and his car’s “New Car Smell” air freshener that hung from a pine-tree on his rearview mirror.
My eyes met my dad’s. They were big like mine, but full of optimism, full of humor, full of faith that I’d be okay.
“You’re going to put this all behind you one day, midge,” he said. Midge, short for midget, his nickname for me when we’d all discovered I was just going to be the short one in the family. “You’re going to be okay, and when you’re ready for help, we’ll be here for you. You let me know, okay?” He put his warm hand on top of mine and patted it.
At that moment, I really believed him. I was grateful for him. I had faith in his faith. I found joy in his optimism. I felt possibility. When I was ready.

I understood at that moment he’d been acting as a surrogate. On a miniature diorama scale, he displayed love that exists for someone as undeserving as me. How much greater and holier could the love of this God I’d heard of be? How much more faithful? How much more would be possible if I’d accepted it? It overwhelmed me. But I felt it.
NO CONTACT!” A deputy shouted from the corner of the room. “One hug at the start of visiting! One hug at end of visiting, sir!” My mom, dad, and I all jumped.
I looked at my dad, I was wide-eyed and startled.
“He just didn’t get his donut this morning, midge,” my dad said. He mimed biting into a donut, his eyes twinkled a joy that seemed to say, Let’s just make the best of this.
“I think you’re right,” I said, embarrassed by my dad’s theatrics. “I completely agree.”

My story is the amazing truth.

migraines for days

my post-migraine sleepathon smile.

Maybe it’s because of my years as a habitual liar and Omitter of Truths, that I have a hard time believing all the things people tell me. Not in an especially critical or cynical way. Not even in a suspicious way. Just in a-“I wonder if they really know how they feel about this”-way. Sometimes when I thought I was being honest, I wasn’t…all the way.

It may also be because of my years as a habitual liar and Omitter of Truths, that I have a hard time believing the people that seem to believe everything I tell them. How many times did I sit across from someone blatantly lying to my face and I’d patiently accept it? Not surreptitiously or resentfully but out of pity. Or finally resigned that this was a lie too big to conquer in one conversation or too small to matter in the long run.

I’ve found that I surround myself with people that look beyond the words being said. The people that will ask a straight-forward question, listen to my answer as if scanning it, then pause – ask me another question about my answer – then listen. This is good (and annoying) because the only thing worse than lying to someone is inadvertently lying to yourself. But it takes the type of people that “get” me to know what kind of question to ask.

That’s what we gotta do is get down to just one story, the true person we are, and live it all the way out. -Denis Johnson, The Starlight on Idaho

These types of people know where I keep my secrets, where I tuck the lies, where the delusions take over reality and fears take over my words.

That’s what is so hard about recovery. It’s the act of finding out who you are in real life. In my addiction, there were so many versions of me floating around out there and they all sucked. Then I had the delusions of who I intended to be, and those were all very compartmentalized and separate in my brain.

One personality for work, one personality for church friends, one personality for family, one personality for AA friends…

Sometimes the more difficult thing was finding out who I was not. A lot of “outsiders” not in AA think that writing a list of our character defects is a demoralizing and degrading act. Well, for one, if you think that then I think you should write one. It is a step into humility, that’s for sure. But more than that, it’s a step into owning who you actually are.

If anyone escapes childhood and adolescence without any trauma, then good for you. You’re probably a great person and somehow got lost and ended up on my blog.

But for the rest of us, those traumas packed on a bunch of descriptors of what we thought defined us. We identified with those parts of ourselves that were dirty and broken and carried that into every part of our lives. Or else we tried stubbornly to ignore them or drown them in booze, drugs, sex, food, etc.

To ignore a trauma is just as much a betrayal to my identity as it is to have it become my identity.

That is also so difficult to grasp. To let go of even the bad things I thought I was. If my whole personality was based on being an asshole alcoholic, and now I’m honest and Christian and sober, who the hell am I? What am I left with? A child of God, ok, but what does that even mean. I have a lot more experience being the “bad things” than I do with this honesty business. It’s tough. It’s scary. It’s dangerous.

Yet, that’s what makes it all so thrilling. And as any good alcoholic will tell you, sometimes chasing that thrill is all we’ve got.

And God. I think God when He sees me in these “honesty or die” situations, is like, “Uhh, we already know you’re going to tell the truth, stop making it such an ordeal. Scoot, scoot, leave that person a note that you hit their car and move along… there’s more cool stuff coming your way…”

Life limped along at subsonic speeds

Well, it’s been a long fast two months but I think Gladwell is finally understanding my exaggerated made-up American Dog Sign Language and can keep up on brisk walks and periodic jogs. Even a lady we always walk by noticed how frolicky he is now!

I’m very proud of the young senior he’s becoming.

❤️❤️❤️ Always adopt an older dog, guys. ❤️❤️❤️

Coppola left me hanging with a stupid kissy-face.

Coppola hasn’t runaway for good and that’s always an achievement. Don’t forget to love Coppola!!! He is da best.

Looking back at 2019

The song Defender by Rita Springer ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. makes me cry.

It started last January when I was in church and I heard the song for the first time. The song interested me because it’s pretty brutal at first, talking about the head of my enemy and all that. Basically how God has already won every battle. Like, geez Christians — cool it with the violence. Then it went on with, “Your love becomes my greatest defense” and my heart became a little mushyyyy and I was like, “Aw, God…. yeah, your love really IS my greatest defense.”

I stood there, nodding along instead of singing like I usually do because I wasn’t familiar with the song yet. Then the chorus was sung.

All I did” was praise, …worship, …bow down, …stay still.

First things first: Jesus really is my salvation. To the core of my being and despite every argument I have with God, I can’t fathom existing in a life that pretends He doesn’t exist and has a meaningful presence in my daily life. He. Is. Everything.

But this song cracks me up because when I first heard it, I was looking back at 2018. I’d just celebrated a year sober, I had moved out of sober living, but I was completely and utterly aimless and frankly kind of depressed.

But all the things! All the miracles. All the battles won! In 2018 I was just barely learning how to stay still. I was only just beginning to praise. I could only fathom bowing down. There I was, trying to worship and taking all the credit. But God came through for me, anyway.

Then 2019 had some rough patches. More aimlessness. More stuckness. More what-the-fuckness, honestly.

I’m nothing if not loyal.

Today’s society and culture is one that doesn’t really favor that. Especially when it comes to supernatural beings that people supposedly cannot see. People turn in their gods with whatever the latest celebrity or scholar says, and they smug-shrug and say with all their confidence that it’s cute I believe in a god but you know, “that’s not really for me.”

Well, ok. Thanks for making God out to be like, an option, or something.

I can stand here and tell you I don’t need air. I don’t believe in air and yeah, “science” but oh who cares, man-made and all that. Show me some air and then maybe I’ll tell you that’s in my lungs keeping me alive. But hey, if that works for you… go on. Keep calling it “air” that is giving you life, it’s cute.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

So when I heard this song again this Sunday, ughhhdhhdhdimtotallynotcryingasitypethisseriouslyyyyyyyNO,ItotallyAM.

Like I was saying, so I heard it this Sunday and I was just so overwhelmed by the love that protected me all last year. When I really was so damn lost and overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do and that praise God because I know He is good, worship God because He is the only one worthy of my worship, literally bowed down every morning during three awful months when I cried every other day and just begged God for a clearer answer and please make it soon… and all those times I stayed still.

For an alcoholic, for someone with a spirit as restless and irritable as mine, it’s so easy to give up. To give in. To get up and walk out. That is everything I have done my entire life. Staying still has never been an option I’d consider choosing. Last year, I did. I can see now so clearly (that I broke down sobbing for the rest of the song at church) the fruit of doing so. The fruit of faithfulness and works. The risks I took that I didn’t want to. The steps I made to things I wasn’t sure I wanted. The faith I had when I wasn’t sure why.

Now, as I sing that song at full lung capacity, I can feel how good and holy God is. What a miracle He’s even given me the opportunity to bow down.

What a gift it is to stay still.

The way everything turned out is completely different than what I’d expected. And oh, it’s just soooooo much better!!!!!

Now what sweet miracles and detours do we have in store this year, my Heavenly Defender? Whatever it is, here I am.

This is exactly the kind of post I hate reading.

What mask?

An unfinished painting from 2007 I’d forgotten about

As an angry teen and former Catholic, I liked the term “confessional poetry.” Reading this stuff was exactly like eavesdropping on someone’s self-indulgent and dirty therapy session. It inspired the kind of writing I’d hope to do someday.

Now that I can thumb through 200+ pages of words I’ve written in a form that doesn’t agree with me at all, I can see I tried too hard. Telling the story was annoying enough, I didn’t need to make it complicated. Whatever. It’s over.

So now I smile and frolic back here to my unassuming blog, to my needy journals, stretch my fingers, examine my favorite pens, think all my short-lived thoughts, highlight a magazine article, merrily jot out a sentence then… distracted – I click, I scroll.

On the social media, I scroll.

On the comments of articles, I scroll.

On the cheerfully filtered photos with deeply contrasted captions, I scroll.

On the emailed newsletters, I scroll.

People my age have had the opportunity to “grow up” on the internet. Our lives acclimated in pace to the advance of technology. We watched sex tapes launch celebrities. We marveled at glamorous eating disorders, blatant pedophilia, and dramatic addiction. Privacy and anonymity became a shore we felt more comfortable losing sight of. So we jumped on ships, took a bunch of photos with digital cameras, said a lot of words to the imagined masses and shared them. With others. Also on ships of self-indulgence.

We began to ride the waves of validation, buoyed by hearts and thumbs up reactions. Some people should work on their aesthetic but as a generation we collectively know the story we tell about….anything… can get us attention. In this economy, attention means money.

This is a boring and not-abnormal human behavior, I think. Something about the survival of the fittest, I’m sure. The self-revelation has just changed a bit. In today’s version of flash-“confessional poetry,” I think even Sylvia Plath would roll her eyes.

Over and over again, I see posts and comments of people baring their souls. Such troubled, broken, traumatized souls. [read: a human soul.] Look, see, I’m flawed. No, no applause, please. I’m just a human trying to “human” in all my self-deprecating glory for all the world to see. Thank you, I am strong, I’m glad you realized that. Nope, no gods or magic – this is all me.

We used to flaunt digital photos of nightclubs and oversized SUVs.

Now, we prostitute our humility.

This is me too, by the way. I enjoy the written challenge of having a reader feel as awful as I have felt. (“How do I describe overwhelming nausea that made swallowing my spit super challenging? Hmm… what’s another word for shamesosuffocatingIwannablowmybrainsout? I’ll check Thesaurus.com…“) But maybe, just maybe [insert wistful sigh and a dreamy distant look] they’ll walk away with a little hope. [insert eye twinkle]

But this has always been my habit. Even as a five-year-old with deep five-year-old thoughts, I’d scribble inspired markings on notepads and tell my mom I was writing a story and could she please leave me alone. Delusions of grandeur.

That is still me. It sounds pretentious to call it “writing” though. It is just me documenting the digestion of my thoughts and experiences. Actual scribbles. There isn’t an art to it at all, it’s just for record-keeping purposes. On the internet sometimes. In a journal usually.

It’s so weird how the bank teller was so nice to me last Friday but today, she didn’t even laugh at my frostbite joke. I should have checked her hands, made sure she wasn’t missing any fingers. No, if she was missing a finger, I would’ve noticed as I handed her the deposit slip. She lives in San Diego, where would she have gotten frostbite? I think toes are easier to lose than fingers… I can’t see her feet from the counter. Maybe my frostbite joke just wasn’t funny. This is why I can’t make female friends.

But, the internet.

It has inspired people newly acquainted with their thoughts to share them. Publicly. That is a dangerous thing.

It is dangerous because it’s a new party with new rules — this “honesty” vibe is a whole new scene. You show up and smile, everyone likes you enough especially if you’ve filtered your photos well. But now you’ve said something controversial and people are keeping an eye on you. This is when your dance begins.

Eyes can give supportive and interested glances. Eyes can also roll, very judgy. This new attention can be intoxicating so it is maneuvered in an effort to not lose balance. People hope to harness this energy into sponsorship from a treatment center, energy drink, or roll it into a podcast. Must. look. good. and. flawed. Keep dancing. The goal is to be real, relatable, genuine — authentic. The dirtier and grimier you can get, the better. But still maintain enough distance so people don’t think you are actually, still right now, gross and dirty. A delicate dance that when performed with rehearsed mistakes, will garner you admiration and there is always someone that’ll say, “OMG me too!” My generation loves these words. We don’t want any of that fake TV shit. We grew up on reality TV and we know it’s scripted.

“I’m going to share a deep dark secret, and I’m going to overdramatize every ounce of it so you know just how real it is. I’ll pretend to have grown from this secret but in truth, I just use it as a launching pad to excuse my incessant need for your validation. I need you to tell me, with likes and comments (absolutely do not under any circumstances actually reach out to me in a human capacity with a phone call or text message, keep it all on social media so people can see how important I am), that my content is marketable so I can become an influencer and live off that sweet internet cash and take glossy IG travel pics. If you don’t, I will act out and break the third wall, then go super meta with an apology about how all that just happened because I didn’t get enough validation. But don’t call me. Or text me. Keep your comments on social media.”

We’ve traded in strobe-lit nightclubs for early morning feed-the-homeless photo ops and replaced a gas-guzzling SUV for humble bicycle pics. Then there was the trading-in of our good intentions, privacy, and dignity. Those things were all fleeting anyway. We used to tease intimacy on the internet by providing a peek into everyday lives. Spark a little curiosity. If you wanted more, pay $7.99 for the Chinese lunch special to stumble a dance face-to-face with an awkward absurdity in knowing each other with the naked transparency we saw on the internet. Sometimes it works. Sometimes at least you got lunch.

But, no. Now, these days at an introduction, we throw the clothes off our souls for cheeseburgers. We don’t even care if the buns are gluten-free or moldy. Is the beef grass-fed or, you know what? If the soft calf is still bloody and smiling at us that’s great! At least it’s giving us attention.

Still, don’t forget that danger. If you haven’t previously mastered living a double-life in the past, like since the age of five, take it slow. Only once you’ve had both lives crash and burn will you be able to sort through the wreckage in order to reconcile the internet-you with the fleshy-you. Honestly, that’s the sweet spot though.

Now your oversharing is less a grotesque rotting meat market and more of a cute boutique deli.

To continue mixing bad metaphors, that dance of humility that you’ve been practicing and rehearsing? It’s like muscle memory now! Just in time, because people are scrolling while they’re sitting on the toilet or waiting for their drug dealer so they have a couple of seconds to spare.

Are you ready to perform your rehearsed confessional now? Make it a good comeback, extra humble — heck, it can go viral. Hey, with that kind of exposure, you can become a life coach. The internet is your oyster…

Anne Sexton wouldn’t necessarily be proud but what did she know, anyway? She didn’t even have any IG followers.

And we are magic talking to itself,
noisy and alone. I am queen of all my sins
forgotten. Am I still lost?
Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself…

-Anne Sexton

I can’t stop thinking about your goodness

There are over 600 pages of my psychiatric health in my medical records spanning from 2008 to 2018. Here are two pages.

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This first one photo is from a psychiatrist appointment on September 28, 2017. I drank that entire summer of 2017. Ok, I drank every summer for a lot of summers. But in September 2017, a manic episode led me to spend over $400 in the course of a couple of hours. I drank because I didn’t feel OK. I roamed around La Jolla getting kicked out of places. Then I went home to a room I rented in Mira Mesa before going to a coffee shop in Encinitas. I don’t really remember how I got there considering I was broke. There, I felt so out of control I called 911 and was carried away on a stretcher in an ambulance. There, I did a Facebook Live of my emergency room admittance. It was a shitshow.

My roommates ended up having a weird intervention for me saying that I scared them. They’d never been around someone like me so if I had another episode, they wanted me to leave. Sure, they were kind about it, don’t get me wrong. They did the best they could. Have you ever tried living with a bipolar alcoholic?

In the moment though, I tried to educate them the best I could about bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Quickly, I tried to make them remember I was a human not just these dysfunctions. But there was no reconciliation to make them feel safe because honestly, I fucking wasn’t. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous kindly states: “A drinker in his cups is an unlovely creature.” I was bipolar, non-compliant with meds, and “in my cups”.

Then I found out in early October, that my friend Chris was dead. (I thought he had died recently but he had been dead since the summer.)

Chris was a friend from sober living in 2016. We were instant best friends. Our conversations ranged from racism to Conor Oberst to the Beat Generation. Our inside jokes drove our house manager crazy. All one of us had to say was “Ambercrombie and Fitch” and we’d lose it. Or our endless drives to and from meetings in my beat-up VW Beetle. The CD player didn’t work but the radio did and it was all we listened to. The same dozen songs on constant rotation. Some of our conversations still pop into mind when I’m driving around or when I hear a song, and I will explode in laughter. My entire chest swells up in joy at the ridiculousness of our early awkward sobriety. I laugh, by myself now, to the point of tears. Then I remember. There were also hours and hours of listening to him combat God.

“God hates me, if he exists” is a frequent thing he’d say. When he got kicked out of sober living for not getting along with the manager and not wanting to continue his stepwork, which was… ya know, supposed to get you God-reliant, he relapsed on weed.

Then alcohol.

Then he was homeless.

Being homeless when it rains really sucks, Vanessa. You have no idea. I smell like death.

Then he relapsed on meth.

The last time I saw him was at a Motel 6 in Vista in January 2017. I picked him up to go to a meeting and even though he hadn’t told me he’d relapsed on meth, just by being within 20 ft of him, my spirit recognized it. I became unbelievably unsettled. There were two girls in the car with me that night. They had asked for a ride to the meeting and I remember thinking, “There is no way in hell I can have him in the same car as these girls.” But dysfunction breeds dysfunction, and he got in.

At the meeting, Chris fidgeted in his chair and asked me to go outside with him for a cigarette.  I watched as he broke two cigarettes trying to light them. Finally, I lit one for him and gave it to him. Then he broke it when he tried to flick the ash off.

“I can’t sit, let’s go walk,” he said, finally frustrated he couldn’t get the nicotine he wanted.

There was no point to our walk. It was just something to do. There were no inside jokes, no laughing, there was nothing I could say to make it better. All I could do was sit.  There was no anger. There wasn’t any disappointment. I don’t know that there was even any sadness. All there was between us was distance. It was not my friend. I felt like throwing up.

When I dropped him back off at the Motel 6, he asked me to forgive him. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to forgive him for.

“This is just a little relapse, just a small one. Like yours, before you got back into sober living, right? Like, I’m going to get sober like you, I’m going to find God, I guess. This is just my first step or whatever, I’m powerless. Will you come up with me? Flush the rest of the tweak? Will you flush it for me?”

In another dimension, my body leapt out of the car and marched to Chris’s motel room and took all his drugs and flushed it all away. All his problems went down the drain. His fears about his schizophrenic father. His fears about his broken heart. His fears about who he was and what he was worth. In that dimension, Chris’s life was saved. He found God.

Instead, every. single. cell. in. my. body. stayed in place. Nothing could get me out of that car.

“I’ll go with you,” one of the girls in the backseat said. I turned around to look at her and remembered, I was responsible for these two other lives in the car now, too.

“No,” I said. I said bye to Chris but he didn’t hear me. He meandered across the parking lot back to his room. My car made its way out of the parking lot and my spirit began to rest.

A few months later, I got a call from a Georgia phone number.

“Hey Sneaky, it’s me! Shit got real bad in San Diego, man. Real bad. I’m back home now, I’m going to church with mom and dad. Can you believe it? God is real, man. He saved me, I’m going to send you a pic, ok, check out my cross. They have me set up at a motel right now, but I’m good, I got a few weeks sober. Shit got real bad, man…”

At that moment, I was nursing a hangover. Nestled in dirty blankets on a mattress on the floor, there was vomit in my hair and dry mascara tears on my face. I was barely clothed. Happy to hear from him but annoyed he didn’t ask about me. What about my relapse and despair? Do you see how this disease is a physical, mental, and social manifestation of nothing but selfishness?

I wasn’t being selfish because I thought I was more important. And he wasn’t being selfish because he didn’t care about me. But we each in our private minds were running on a terror that was too deep for either of us to name. We didn’t want to die and we wanted someone to tell us we wouldn’t. We couldn’t be that hope for the other.

I don’t want anyone to confuse this as us being “bad” people. We were very sick people and we had get well.

He sent me a photo. In it, he smiled in a parking lot with looming trees lacing the sun behind him. He beamed so brightly. His tall lanky frame, his skeletal fingers pointed to his chest – a large cross hung around his neck.

“You look good, Chris, good to know God’s got your back,” I said. An empty CVS bag crumpled beneath me. I threw up bile into it.

“He does, and you know…” he said. There was a hesitancy I didn’t recognize in him. He paused. “…That was kind of fucked up what you did. What you and Steve did… never… I never would’ve expected it from you but I really do forgive you. Jesus showed me, so I forgive you. Life is too short, I think you meant good,” he said. “I really think you meant good by it.”

“Chris, what are you talking about?” I asked. Steve was his sponsor. We’d kept in touch only because he knew that Chris trusted me. So if anyone would hear from Chris, it’d be me.

“He doesn’t trust anyone, Vanessa. But, he trusts you he thinks you’re all right.”

I racked my fuzzy memory trying to recall what I ever could have possibly done against Chris. And especially what did I ever do where Steve was involved. Was it because I left him at the motel? What was it?

“Hello, Chris? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, but I still felt guilty.

“The earbuds,” he said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Chris, can you just tell me?”

“You and Steve, you guys kept talking to me through my earbuds when I was trying to listen to music. You guys never left me alone. You guys said some fucked stuff man, like you didn’t want to talk to me if I never got sober. It wasn’t cool, I was going to get sober. I didn’t need you harassing me like that, that’s fucked, Vanessa,” he said. “I forgive you.”

My body felt on fire but I was shivering cold. That conversation never happened.

The tone in his voice… I knew there was nothing I could say to convince him I had not been secretly relaying messages to him through his earbuds.

Nausea overcame me in a wave. I curled up and dry heaved on the dirty carpet near the mattress.

“I forgive you,” he continued. In another dimension, I badgered Chris into submission. Into sobriety. I led him to God. He got sober. I asked for forgiveness.

“Chris, I have to go,” I said. I hung up. I stared at the photo he’d sent me. He did look much healthier, he’d been eating at least. His smile was so big. The sun shined so brightly in that photo. I could practically hear his laugh. His teasing nickname for me, “Hey Sneaky!”

Months later, a friend would call me while I was hungover and at work to tell me Chris had died.

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I can’t express what happened to me exactly, only that I showed up at my AA workshop on October 8th, shaking and with vomit still on my breath. I told that group of strangers that I couldn’t end up like Chris. He thought I had gotten better. He believed I had answers. He wanted to believe I did. I wanted to believe I did.

If Chris had truly found God, like he said he had with the lightness and peace in his voice that I hadn’t ever heard from him before, I was glad. I wanted to find Him again, then, too.

If Chris had just lost his mind and was deeply psychotic and detached from reality, well I still wanted that peace he had in his voice when he talked about God.

Maybe I’m the crazy one. Still here, giving God the glory.

But maybe I’m crazy to still have doubts. To see and feel God in action in all these small and painful moments, and dismiss it as a coincidence.

To look back over the last two years of recovery and say, I did it all myself.

To remember every lie I told and promise I broke. To pick up the phone without shame or blame, to make it okay to the people I’d hurt.

To read these notes written by a doctor and feel so close to the 31-year-old Vanessa Gomez but with overwhelming and beautiful relief at 34 years old, to feel so distant from her, too.

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I’m likely not returning to social media anytime soon.

coppolaaaa

we decreased our screen time by 54%

But I felt compelled to update this here because of the handfuls of panicky people that have reached out and therefore, made me panicky as well. OMG, did I die and I don’t know!? ….No, no, I just got rid of Facebook and Instagram….

This little site is always being updated, in case you care enough to follow it.

Anyway, the end of the year is approaching and the book I have yet to complete sits on my desk. Every time I pick up a page to edit it, I feel strongly compelled to throw it away. Yes, because it’s awful writing. No, I’m not being self-deprecating, it actually truly is horrible. But also, I just am sick of the story. Why do I have to keep retelling the same story? This has always been my beef with God.  GOD, CAN YOU MAKE ME MORE INTERESTING, PLEASE? I’m sick of talking about alcoholism and mental illness. And by the way, God, you don’t exactly work as a great conversation starter when making new friends, either.

“What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.” – AW Tozer

At this point in time, I struggle to complete the book because 1) I’m happy and 2) I’m sick of the story.

Since I was a little girl, writing was my sanctuary. A place full of make-believe realities and investigative reporting of my inner thoughts on the observations of the outer world. Also, it was very private. I could say whatever I wanted because no one but me and maybe a teacher would read it. That honesty of my thoughts, however crazy they actually were, was the voice that grew. The voice that I learned to appreciate and listen to. And it was the voice that I lost when I became an alcoholic and realized I really couldn’t tell the true from the false anymore.

When I got sober, I figured I could write myself back to the truth. Find myself, that lost voice, somewhere between the worn-out ‘n’ key and the space bar.

Also, there was a very strange marriage between my conversion to Christianity and my writing revival. The two came about at the same time and I haven’t been able to peel them apart since then. Really, I stopped trying. Without God, I wouldn’t have the courage to write about even a quarter of the things I’ve written about.

But now I’m annoyed.

I’m annoyed because the anticipated comments, either positive or negative, began to worm themselves into my writing process. All these little voices of, “Well, how would so-and-so take this?” or “Do you think so-and-so will know you’re talking about them?” began to edit the words I wrote as I typed them.

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R.I.P. to the tree that had to die for my shitty story to live in the physical world.

So it’s helpful to be off social media. Even though the support and comments were overwhelmingly positive.

But also, I’m happy. It’s so hard for me to write when I’m happy! I just don’t see the point in curating the worst times in my life, prettying it up in neat little black and white letters, and serving it up for someone else’s eyes to feast on and suffer from. Half of me doesn’t even recognize that girl in the story anymore, and the other half just wants to politely nod at her so she’ll go away.

…and BY THE WAY, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but Red Smith’s quote is accurate, “Writing is easy, you just open your veins and bleed.” It isn’t as though I can just “fake” the sorrow I felt when my parents came to visit me Thanksgiving week in jail. How my mom wore her prettiest blouse and my dad looked like he’d lost a ton of weight, and they just sat there smiling at me. Pretending they weren’t visiting their little girl in jail, the one they used to smother with too many hugs and words of encouragement. My mom’s hands, the ones I used to grab and pull and take the rings off of as a curious child as I sat on her lap. Now those soft plump hands were visibly aged and unpolished. My dad’s big brown eyes I recognized as the prototype for mine, had love beaming straight out of them, it hurt to look at them. It physically hurt to know these people created me, kept me alive, nurtured and loved me, forgave me, and there. I. was.

“…I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”-Joan Didion

It’s exhausting, is all I’m trying to say. But complaining about it here felt vaguely honest and somewhat familiar.

But anyway, I’m alive and well and happy and busy and writing and not writing and adopting all the dogs that love me. Call me if you have my number. Stop by if I can give you hugs. If you don’t, figure out a way to get in touch. People are pretty good at figuring that out.

Ok, bye.

Day 6 – NaNoWriMo

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve spent most of this evening replying to emails instead of writing. I flirted with the idea of just editing the last project I completed in November 2018 and trying to mold that into something that doesn’t bring me tremendous buckets of shame. Why is it so hard this? I waited until I was a year sober to start writing this book. Then I had revelations, an experience of how it should turn out. Then I started over. Now I’ve lost my voice.

I read what I’ve written and I don’t recognize the voice.

It’s like, here or in emails the writing comes with little effort. Even in person, I can retell parts of the story and I am satisfied. But when I open the document creatively named NaNoWriMo 2019, my language becomes halted. Terse. Alien. Forced.

This is disappointing.

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God, help me.

More candy, plz.

Well, as I started getting my things together for the resident event I’m throwing tomorrow… I kinda kept telling myself: See, this is why you can’t go shopping unsupervised.

I RAN OUT OF BAGGIES TO PUT CANDY IN, GUYS.

R U sure these aren’t for u?

Coppola judged me the entire time.

After his coma, the beagle came out in him.

Gladwell has a hounds nose and tracked all the locations of the candy and cookies. I guess when you can’t see well, or hear, your nose gets pretty curious.

Note to self: When you hear God say something to you, obey.

Geez Louise.

I’d save myself an awful lot of looking stupid if I just paused and took His direction more often.

Thankful for his grace and mercy!!

Hallelujah, anyway.

i was walking my dogs at a park in 4S when suddenly, all these cars showed up and parked at the SAME TIME. All these people came out of the cars, different ages and ethnicities. Our path was going to cross theirs just as everyone huddled around a trashcan. No one seemed to be talking to each other but everyone was looking at their phones. I had been listening to an audiobook but took out an earplug so I could eavesdrop and get a clue about what was happening. When I did, no one said a word.

We continued our walk, with many delays (Gladwell has super short legs and has a hard time getting up and off curbs… I lead him to the wheelchair drop in the sidewalk, now) and eventually looped back around to the mysterious trash can gang.

One white dude in a button up shirt and slacks began walking away from the trash can and was returning to his car. On his way, he smiled at Gladwell. This was a person I could talk to.

“Hey, what’s going on over there?” I asked.

“Oh, Pokemon Go,” he said. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Oh! That’s still a thing?” Immediately regretted my word choice…and tone…. and asking in general.

“Yeah….” said the stranger. “Unfortunately, I guess it is!”

So I laughed again. “No, that’s good. That’s cool, sounds fun,” I said, looking back at the trash can gang that was dispersing and returning to their cars.

It really was sort of magical. I liked that strangers could be standing so close to other strangers on the same mission as them and still not say a word to each other. That’s a special kind of social isolation.


Finally told my parents about Gladwell. Mom automatically said, “I’m not taking care of any more dogs, VANESSA.”

Allright, allright… calm down mama.

Dad thought it was cool I got another dog.

“Are you lonely? Is that it?” Mt mom tried again to understand why her daughter grew up to be a dog collector.


On our walk today, Coppola fell into a Coppola-sized man hole in the park’s landscape. Something for irrigation it looked like. I laughed to hard to be able to help him. He got himself out and I swear to you he huffed at me.

Ha!