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*

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.

IMG_2285

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.

CDC9B51D-49AF-40B3-B0EE-DE0FB41C58CA-11306-0000045A0C7FFBD7

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*

You must have been looking for me.

It starts in the summer. Just as the weather warms up, the sundresses come out of the closet, a new package of hair ties is purchased to hold my ponytail high and only God knows what happened to last summer’s hair ties. Socks become a thing of a chilly past – its sandals or barefoot now. My toenail polish is made shiny and bright each Sunday. That’s when it starts.

The phone rings and for whatever reason, I feel lucky. Maybe because I know outside is heavy with heat, but I’m in air-conditioned rooms — cool and free. Today, I am inspired to answer the phone. This will be the start of a new adventure.

“Wow, you answered,” the voice says. “A couple of us are going to the pier for dinner, do you wanna go?”

The voice belongs to a man (only once to a woman) and is lightly tinted with concern, it lies about others being invited. It’s just us. But I play along. This year is different, I am cool and collected. My fingernails match my toenail polish. I did not even smudge them this time. I get a text with the location like I didn’t already know, like I wasn’t already on my way there.

There are two seats at the bar, we don’t get menus. This is where we stop pretending.

The sun set over the ocean hours ago, but the sky won’t turn pitch black.  There are empty glasses that beg to be counted — I hope the grouchy bartender comes back. I can guess that the body that came with the voice has left. Still, I search. It’s darker in this stale venue than it is outside. My eyes search for a familiar face and they find one.

“Oh no,” it says, half-amused (or is that half-horrified?) “I mean… I thought you stopped. Didn’t you go to jail recently or something? What happened? You don’t look so good.” The face says it all. The words I didn’t want to see in the reflection of the dirty bar mirror.

The bartender returns and replaces the tiny glasses with two larger ones. Were they both for me? Cold and shimmering, I grab one with hands clad in chipped nail polish. The face didn’t wait for an answer.

But I want to hear my voice anyway.

“I don’t know,” it says. “I guess we fell in love again.”

SDWI / Thursday Writers, May 14 writing prompt: We fell in love again.

Birds in nature vs. My thoughts

Not really sure the last time I checked out birds. Not in a poetic and meditative state, but just like — birds. Maybe one got caught in my air conditioner (or so I imagine because that’s what it sounds like but I’m too scared to check.) Or maybe I notice because their piercing shrieks seem compete against the busy street noise I hadn’t noticed until I noticed the birds.

Whatever the case, I can assure you, I don’t think romantically about birds at all but I do wish I had more space to contemplate thinking about them.

blhhh (1)

We do not seem to be getting to the point.

blog (1)

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.

 

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

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…”

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.

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.

IMG_6085

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.

IMG_6084

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.

IMG_6084

I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?

-Van Gogh

I could walk in 70 degree afternoons forever. And indeed, I tried. Unfortunately, Gladwell’s little legs had trouble keeping up. He let me know when he needed a time out. This he told me by plopping down mid-walk and refusing to get back up. Then, when he was ready, he’d stand back up and stare at me expectantly like, “Are you ready?” Then trot along wagging his tail.

Coppola, on the other hand, only rested once. He plopped right down beside Gladwell in the middle of the trail path and sniffed the flowers. Well, ok. Otherwise, he was pretty patient and took in the scenery when Gladwell needed to catch his breath.

I’m sure I had other plans for the day but I don’t remember any of them.

Ok, yeah..this is a good place to stop.

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.

IMG_4310

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.

NaNoWriMo – Day 5

Eek. Didn’t write for two days and I didn’t hit my word count today,

But I have untangled a necklace and cleaned my kitchen so… there’s that.

Uhh…. my blind deaf dog unsurprisingly cannot climb or descend stairs. I found this out at the park last night when we went down some steps and he um, like, tumbled the entire way down. Coppola looked back at his disabled brother and then just kept walking which I thought was pretty rude. But Gladwell just stood up on his pudgy stubby legs and tried to figure out which way to go. Poor little guy.

More words tomorrow I hope.

Maybe I was never crazy.

This was from a different hospitalization.

If you weren’t my friend in 2017, that’s good for you. I’d relapsed in all the ways. Everything was wild. Except nothing was, it just seemed that way.

The ordinary makes me cry. It’s important that you know that because I don’t naturally take pleasure in ordinary things. My DNA didn’t struggle to exist for a moment like this to be… bland. It was lucky for me, I guess, that the Chaos I craved was created within me. It compelled me.

When I say the Chaos you might start to imagine rushed and disorganized. That wouldn’t be this kind, no. It was like the way some people like to explain existence. The world. How everything came about with a collision and propulsion in darkness.

It was all darkness in the beginning.

But then they explain the time, so many years that can’t even calculate because the calendar they’d use is based on a savior that can’t exist because the world was born of Chaos, wasn’t it?

Well then, that was born in me, too. But I didn’t have the time or the luxury of a planet being born to float in darkness waiting for life to grow. For green shoots to poke through soil, for the sun to get close enough to warm me. I didn’t have that luxury of time.

Instead, with the mania tuned down to a hum and the IV washing my blood clean of alcohol, shame sat heavy on my mouth. My parents tried to reach me but Chaos is loud. Even in sterile hospitals where all you hear are beeps, it’s loud.

Time has passed. The green shoots through soil, they do make me cry. The ordinary is painful because it’s beautiful in its own right. Reliable, it isn’t exciting unless you realize how trivial and grand it is — what a miracle that can be.

Our own human duality.

So, I’m not chaotic like the stars. Instead I thrive on solid land. The ordinary gravity is humbling, I welcome it.

I thank God for serenity in the calamity. I repent for the tumult I previously required to feel like I was alive.

Now I just pray I can thrive.


In September 2017, I had a manic episode. A change in medications to stabilize my depression ended up with 4-5 days of erratic behavior. I did not sleep. This led to me drinking to try to sleep. Reality became very distorted and I was picked up from Phil’s Coffee in an ambulance and hospitalized. I continued to drink after my release. On October 7th I drank myself into a blackout…

Information about bipolar disorder

Find help for substance use disorders

Talk to someone if you’re suicidal or self-harming

No, I’m not lucky but yes, you’re annoying.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 9.44.56 PM

One of the most insulting things someone can say to anyone (me) experiencing favorable circumstances is, “Wow, you’re so lucky!”

I’ll admit, I’ve dabbled my fair-unChrist-like share of horoscope reading and zodiac sign personality telling. One of the things that is said a lot about Sagittarians is that we are “ruled” by Jupiter, the planet of luck and good fortune.

In a strange paradox of my Catholic upbringing where a flamboyant and dramatic fortune teller is part of the nightly news, I grew up learning about the zodiac signs and maybe that’s why I’ve always felt lucky.

It’s true, I’ve often felt favored more than I haven’t. Maybe that’s because I grew up with an unrealistically optimistic father who got my hopes up, too. When the unimaginable happened, we’d celebrate. I knew that would work out! When it didn’t, we’d forget. Oh well, wasn’t meant to be.

So maybe that’s how I got stuck with an incurable optimism myself, that is really only absent amidst a spell of depression. But even then…

LUCK.

There’s that song lyric, “No, I’m not lucky I’m blessed, YES.” which I kind of relate to, I guess. Except people tend to use that to describe material things, money, bling. All of which are things that have never really interested me at all.

But blessed, yes.

I’m going to make you a guarantee: Walking in accordance to God’s will for you and not your will for you will always result in blessings.

I think what happens is that I make mediocre things that I get happy about sound good. So people assume it is good. So they say, “Ah, your luck!”

I don’t think God orchestrating the entire Universe so I didn’t die was “luck” but okay.

I also don’t think God orchestrated the entire Universe for So-and-so to die either. I also wouldn’t call that “bad” luck.

What am I rambling on about? I wanted to be offended and now I forgot what was trying to be offended about.

I’m lucky when good things happen.

It is true that I have expended a tremendous amount of energy the past two years trying to take the next indicated step. You are welcome to call me ridiculous but the best of my circumstances have always come from a guidance I’m not wise enough to muster on my own.

How did I know to pick this job over that one?

How did I know to call this person and not that one?

How did I know to stay home or go out instead of go out or stay home?

How did I know that relying on God when my circumstances were SHIT would be the fertilizer that my life has blossomed from now?

I didn’t know. That is unequivocally my favorite part about life. About being a human. The uncertainty of it all. This is why I rarely take plans super seriously but I always hope for the best and laugh when either the best or the worst happens. You just can never really tell.

But that isn’t luck.

Then there are people that are like, “Of course it isn’t luck and of course it isn’t god, you’ve worked your ass off for what you have. You deserve the credit. You’re the one making sacrifices. You’re the one making things work. You, you, you…”

Me, me, me.

That’s a lonely song.

The truth is that yes, my circumstances have changed dramatically from six months ago, from a year ago, from OH LORD 5 years ago…

Yes, it did take a lot of work, actually. No, I never did it on my own. Yes, I have lost things. But oh, I’ve gained so much more…

The truth is, you can have everything you didn’t know you wanted if you put your big plans and ideas aside. If you tap into God’s consciousness and ask, “Is this what you want for me? Is this in the plan? Do I continue on this road? Do I give up, turn around, is there something better at home?”

The hardest work I’ve ever done to get anything I ever wanted was to have faith that God knew better than I did. Especially when I was pretty sure He didn’t. And to trust that if I just put His desires in my heart instead of my own, that things are working out exactly as they should.

And luck has nothing to do with that.

So stop diminishing God.

And frankly, stop diminishing the shittiness I go through when I’m just following God’s directions. There was a lot of bad stuff before the good stuff arrived.

If you’re going through bad stuff yourself, let it go. Have some faith.

I’ve often tried to hold the sea, the sun, the fields, the tide.

I tell you, love is just a kiss away.

Do you think love could change the world?

What would that look like?

You there, claiming an identity rooted in beliefs that you’ll never change — if the person who hurt you the most approached you with remorse tomorrow: Would you feel relief? Would a burden be removed? Could you feel free? Could you change the way you love? Could you let yourself be loved?

The reason the world doesn’t work this way is that somewhere along the line everyone agreed to only worry about themselves, their priorities, they would handle their “own business” and everyone else should do the same. No second chances. We all die alone. The thread of commonality that ran throughout humanity, the very essence of being alive, got snuffed out for the sake of individual progress.

We became islands. We curated our own worlds to keep the “good” ones in and the “bad” ones out. Now, we compete.

At some point, we began putting the value of our life over the value of everyone else’s. Then we started ranking everyone else’s.

We used to identify each other with the things we loved. Now we gravitate to those who fear as we do. We identify each other with disease and we wallow in our despair. Then we just others who suffer, too, because they do it differently.

Somewhere along the line, asking for help meant weakness. Being poor meant you were lazy. Being non-white meant you were inferior. Being born outside of a free country meant you were trying to take whatever freedom there was. Making a mistake showed you didn’t know anything and probably never had. Disagreeing with someone meant you were wrong.

Somewhere along the line, being right became the only thing that mattered.

Being right mattered more than love.

Being right mattered more than peace.

Being right mattered more than lives.

I’ll let you know, it doesn’t matter much to me.

I’m willing to be wrong.

And I know loving people, even if I disagree with them, can change the world.

Even if they are wrong.

Even if they are right.

I believe all the holiness that I was born with, you were born with, too.

That holiness is a thread that will bind us greater than any fear if only we could honor it.

After all, the value of a life belonging to the person I love the least is still equal in value to mine. It is equal to yours, too. I don’t get to decide that.

It. Just. Is.

Does that make you cringe?

*title from “All Over You” by Live