P.S. – You are Loved!

P.S. You Are Loved Project Tag Cloud in the shape of a heart

P.S. You Are Loved Project Tag Cloud

This took me a few days to write, but it’s finally done.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the P.S. You Are Loved Project on Facebook – veve.me/PSYouAreLoved (and forward the link to anyone you think might be interested in helping counter messages of hate to trans*folk that are coming out and getting hate mail)?


Dear Friend,

I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to receive all those messages of hate, after finally having the courage to reveal yourself as you have known yourself to be for so long.  I doubt I ever will.

I, myself, have struggled since childhood with the knowledge that the sex and gender I was assigned at birth don’t fit with the sense of who I am, internally.  But because neither of the binary options available to me in societal roles of sex and gender fit my own private identity, because even if there were an option that fit me that I could outwardly transition into, I still wouldn’t come even close to fitting anyone else’s idea of a societal norm, I’ve chosen to simply accept the cis-assigned roles allowed me by the normie majority’s sense of acceptable “morality.”  I still don’t “fit in,” but at least this way I don’t stick out *quite* so much.

I’m not telling you all this to try to draw attention to myself – I’m mainly hoping to convey a sense of empathy for the difficulty of your position.  I know a little about feeling like my outside doesn’t match my inside identity.  I know about being a target for hate.  I’ve been beaten up badly more times than I can count, and I’ve lived with daily verbal violence, bullying, and severe public humiliation on a daily basis from my so-called “peers” for years before I managed to escape to the city and the more accepting communities here.  I know, and hopefully you do too, that no matter how “different” we may seem to be to bigoted individuals, there is no excuse for hateful words and actions.  No attribute or aspect of our expressions of identity caused either of us to deserve that kind of treatment.

The thing is, the more that I see hate in the world, towards myself or towards others, the more that I realize that hateful actions say nothing about the target and everything about the hateful person’s fears, insecurities, and guilty anger towards themselves.  It isn’t really *us* that they hate, even though we are the ones they direct it at (because they can’t face who they are and how they feel inside).

So now that I’ve given you a ton of bullshit background explaining why I think I might understand an iota of what you’ve been through with the deluge of recent hate – which, really, I can’t, no more than anyone can be sure they understand anyone else’s experiences but their own – now that I’ve said all that stuff, what is it I’m really trying to communicate?

I guess what I’m trying to say is just my own projections on your situation – not hurtful in intent, but probably almost as misguided.  In the end, the best I can really expect, I imagine, is to learn my own lessons and hope upon hope that this message to myself will have some value to you (or to anyone else besides myself).

The main lesson I’ve learned in life so far (mainly from a serious suicide attempt and from a long bout with severe hard drug addiction in which I wounded everyone who loved me deeply and drove away even my oldest and closest friends, ending up a homeless crack/meth whore for way too long) is this:

I have a responsibility – to myself, to those who love me (past, present, and future), and to all living beings to live life to the fullest – to do my best to change the world and history for the better, to leave a positive legacy, to to be a force for good in every moment that I can.  I have a duty to live.

No matter what I believe about any divine force or a life before or after this one, the only thing I can be sure is that I am alive now.  My only purpose is to live – *truly* live.  I have a mind designed to learn new things constantly, a consciousness to experience and reflect on events, a “heart” – to feel for myself and others, and a conscience (when I don’t try to silence it with denial or addictive behaviors) to help me find my way and live in harmony with the world around me.

It seems this letter may have degenerated into what is beginning to sound like a bunch of self-righteous navel-gazing, but what I really mean is this:

– I don’t know who you are, but I consider you a friend.

– I haven’t met you, but I admire your courage.

– We may never speak, but I urge you: continue being yourself, continue to seek out the fulfillment of your true will in this life, continue pursuing your purpose for existing.

Your sister in spirit,

V.A. Velatura

(P.S. – you are loved!)

Cardboard sign says "Homeless - Disabled - (& Hungrey! [sic]) - Please, Anything Helps!!"

The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained

Since I stopped using at the beginning of this year for (I hope!) the last time, I also stopped giving any cash to people begging for money.  I mean, I’ll occasionally give (up to) one dollar and some loose change, but nothing more than that.  I know that (in my area, at least) more than 99% of the people I see begging for money are begging for drug money.  If I am no longer buying illegal drugs, to me that means that I no longer buy those drugs for ANYONE, not even indirectly.

I’ll admit that I have no problem buying a cheap beer for someone who is really dopesick or in alcohol withdrawal… I know from repeated observation of “close friends” (regular using buddies and “patna’s” I teamed up with) just how hellish and life-threatening opiate/alcohol withdrawals can be… and alcohol is legal and socially acceptable (at least for those who are “productive members of society”).  I never have a problem (if I have the means) with giving a person in need food, hydrating beverages, blankets, warm clean clothing, hygiene items, bus tickets, dog food, time spent looking up resources for them, etc.

But if I have any resources other than monetary ones, I don’t give street folk money.  If I give out money, I never give more than two dollars.  Period.  I no longer am willing to accumulate more guilt about helping anyone (including myself) destroy themselves (and everyone around them) by committing suicide by the most painful route possible.

Also, I don’t get involved.  I spend as little time as possible near them, because I know all-too-well the risk I take by getting too friendly, too comfortable, around the people with whom I used to beg and live and get high and commit crimes, day in, day out, year after year.

That being said, I made an exception.  I let myself become moderately involved with a man for the better part of an hour tonight.  On the way home from picking up arthritis supplements for my four elderly cats, I stopped at 7-Eleven to get a soft drink.  I had just lit up a cigarette, and didn’t want to put it out in the soggy excuse for an ashtray out front and waste a perfectly good super-snipe that someone not too proud to smoke someone else’s lit cancer stick, especially a near-whole one (and a Camel at that).

There were two guys out front.  The one farther away was clearly “out there” double-fisting Four-Loko’s (the current-day usually-available corner-store equivalent of Mad Dog 20/20 – 12% alcohol) and seemed likely to misunderstand my intent and either manhandle me uninvited, and/or to turn violent unexpectedly (or, rather, fairly predictably).  The closer one was clearly in severe pain – I couldn’t see his face, but even so his fetal posture and shaking-bordering-on-convulsions broadcasted pure suffering.

I thought he was dopesick, so I walked over to where he was crouched on the ground, sitting on some of his gear, hunched over his knees, shaking and quietly keening.  He had a cigarette long-ago burnt down to the butt in one hand, and an unlit rollie (hand-rolled tobacco cigarette) in the other hand.  I tried to get his attention. “Hi… Excuse me? … Sir?…” I finally touched his shoulder just firmly enough that he could feel my touch through the thick, dingy, Carhartt-knockoff he was wearing.  I couldn’t see his face, but I could see dirty blonde and gray long dreadlocks (pretty well cared for ones, now that I recall… the dreads were all the same thickness and tightly locked… that takes a fair bit of effort to maintain, especially on the street) hanging down under an oversized, lightly-stained, yellow-tan “crown” (very large rasta-style beret-like knit hat).  After the second touch, he looked up a bit.  He was gritting his teeth and tear tracks had dried in lines down his cheeks.  He was surprisingly clean-shaven, and not one of the locals I knew… I still know most everyone who lives outdoors in my neighborhood.

He didn’t make eye contact directly.  I offered him a cigarette, then noticed he wasn’t smoking the ones he had.  I asked him if he was dopesick, would he like a beer?  He shifted, hunching back over a bit, and said no, he had been passing kidney stones for he-didn’t-know-how-long, and the hospital (which is about 5 blocks away) had kicked him out, saying they couldn’t help him.  I asked him what I could get him.  It was very difficult for him to talk, he mumbled close to a whisper, his line of thought frequently derailing as his words trailed off.  After a bit I was able to hear what he was asking for – cranberry juice.  I went inside, quickly poured a Slurpee for myself (I am fairly expert, after working 7-Eleven graveyards for more than a year in my late teens), grabbed a few pocket packs of ibuprofen, a few to-go servings of honey-roasted peanuts, a 2-pack of pocket Slim-Jim’s with cheese sticks, a roll of Tums… and a double-serving bottle of Ocean Spray.

(Note: when buying food for the homeless, I buy things that are self-contained in pocket-sized single servings and/or resealable, high in protein and fat, relatively low in salt and preservatives when possible, and unlikely to be crushed when heavy things are packed in tightly and/or on top of them.  Generally, tastes among people living on the street trend toward sweet and meaty things, and things that can be chewed easily with missing and broken teeth, or with no teeth at all.  Usually that precludes crispy granola bars with and any hard or unshelled nuts that can’t be swallowed whole.  If buying anything that upsets the stomach, like aspirin, advil, or aleve, I make sure to include either food or a roll of antacids to keep their stomachs from exploding in pain, since their stomach linings are very likely to already be inflamed.)

I brought him the cranberry juice, and gave him the advil.  I suggested that he make sure he eat whenever he took the advil to help with the pain and inflammation… he started crying when he replied he didn’t have any food.  I handed over the honey peanuts, meat sticks, and Tums.  He wasn’t able to acknowledge the resources, or even to stash them so his hands weren’t full, but that wasn’t the purpose.  I just hoped he would be able to pull it together enough to help him reduce the pain a little… I tried asking him if he would let me help him stash some of it in a pocket or a bag for later, but he wasn’t able to answer, or even understand what I was asking, I think.

I wished I could have helped more, but I knew hubby was worrying about me at home, I knew he wasn’t able to accept or use any other help from me, and I knew I had pushed help on him as far as was prudent at that point.  I’m praying for a swift end to the pain, though, and that what little I was able to make available to him doesn’t end up getting stolen or lost while he’s tortured by those horrible crystallized calcium caltrops passing through his ureters.

While I don’t advocate giving street folk money, I do exhort you to pay attention to each individual you meet.  Whether it’s a simple human meeting-of-the-eyes and acknowledgement of a person’s presence in your sphere of influence, a regretful shrug followed with “good luck!” in response to a request for monetary assistance, or whether you are willing to go farther and give a person food or whatever non-tender supplies you can spare, please consider helping another person out regularly in the future.  Being human to someone, even someone heavily addicted to alcohol or hard drugs, helps them feel like life is still worth living, offers a sliver of hope to many, and (for me) reminded me that I was still human, and that I could act like one again eventually… which, hopefully, I do a better job of manifesting both outward and inward toward others and toward myself.

Thank you for reading.  Sorry I spent so much time navel-gazing instead of writing, or this post would have been much shorter.  I’ll try not to wait so long in between posts.  🙂

–Venus

Featured Photo: An edited picture of the sign I used the last time I went out to “fly a sign” (beg for money standing/sitting in one place holding a sign).  It now resides as part of a large piece of art-in-progress titled, “And No One’s Getting PHAT ‘Cept Mama Cass”.  Image (c) 2014, Venushakti Autumn Velatura. All Rights Reserved.

The Death of my Porn Star Dreams

Shortly after I hooked up with my now-husband, I became aware that there is a fairly large market for adult films starring women of my shape and size (and larger).  As highly sexual and exhibitionistic as I was, I immediately became enamored of the plan to become an adult performer and take at least a few film jobs, maybe start a “personality site” (a site about my film persona with regular postings of new erotic media starring me for paid members), and do phone sex, web cam chats, and sell my used panties for money, things like that.  Hubby (then boyfriend) was excited by this idea, and encouraged me to pursue it.

I had a friend with connections to a few well-known people from the early days of modern adult film (late 70’s – early 80’s) – a director who directed John Holmes more times than any other director, and a former adult performer who had starred in more than a hundred well-known (now vintage) adult films.  Both people enjoyed helping new performers navigate the adult film community and avoid potentially problematic situations.

Before I could make any serious plans, I started snorting coke as a habit, and while this addiction increased my desire to perform sexually for others’ entertainment, it severely curtailed my ability to follow through on specific goals.  Additionally, hubby began to worry about my increasingly poor decision-making, so the few opportunities I did have to go down to L.A. to find work, he was adamant that I not pursue those opportunities without taking him with me which, for various reasons, was not possible.

So I started taking erotic pictures of myself and making my own short adult videos with my webcam and smartphone camera, and at the same time, I started hooking up with guys on online dating sites and on Craigslist to share those pictures and videos and to “cyber” (dirty chatting over IM services while each person masturbates) with… at least at first.  Soon, I started breaking the rules of hubby’s and my open marriage by sneaking out when he was asleep or at work without his permission or knowledge to fuck other guys.  I’d borrow his car, supposedly to run errands, but instead would use up all his gas driving to far suburbs to go fuck strangers.  While I was doing this, I was interspersing these anonymous hookups with visits to fuck my dealers to get more drugs.  Everything about me and my life became a lie to everyone I loved, yet I was brutally honest and clear about everything I was doing to the strangers I hooked up with, to my dealers, and to a few other fellow writers that I knew exclusively online.

I even went so far as to develop a list of all the ways I had thought of to keep from getting caught in lies or cheating.  I called this list, “Detection Considerations” and frequently updated it with methods for manipulating situations to continue my reprehensible behavior so that my husband would not have any tangible clues or proof of my betrayals.

I progressively cared less and less about what I was doing to myself and those in my life.  My apathy toward my husband’s, my family’s, and my friends’ feelings became (I’m certain) more and more apparent to them, and everyone pulled away from me emotionally.  When I did get lonely and reach out for help on occasion, there wasn’t anyone left willing to help anymore.  This encouraged me to sink deeper into the darkness that drug-related activities had cast over my soul, so I used more, and cared less about keeping the promises that I’d made to myself before the start of my use of hard drugs – not to steal or “skim off the top,” not to use needles, not to use heroin, not to use meth, and not to prostitute myself on the street.  Instead, I revelled in my descent into the depths of filth — I saw my involvement in “street life” as an adventure.  In a way, I viewed myself as an amateur anthropologist or sociologist developing case studies on the “aboriginal tribes” of the local street cultures I encountered.

I justified, in part, these adventures with the goal of writing a book instructing aspiring prostitutes on how to do the job, how to navigate the streets, how to stay as healthy as possible (e.g. how to keep from losing teeth, how to minimize blackheads), and how not to get hurt or caught.  Over and over, I made glossaries of the local lingo, lists of methods for common drug or tricking procedures such as how to cook crack or how to make a guy cum as quickly as possible while giving him head, lists of what supplies were essential to carry around (such as disposable wipes, condoms, paper napkins, and lube packets, etc), different ways to shoplift, how to clean meth pipes (bubbles) without breaking them, the lists were endless.  But everytime I’d get about halfway through a journal with my notes and ideas, I’d lose it or the purse containing it to forgetfulness or theft, and I’d have to start a new journal all over again.

One of my writer friends, the only one who knew everything, who I also knew in person, and who was a lover of mine that I had permission from hubby to play with, he pointed out that most of the the information I wanted to present in my free book (a la the Anarchist’s Handbook, I called it “The Crack-Ho’s Cookbook”) went against the *responsible* drug users’ code of never being the person to encourage or help another person take a hard drug for the first time.  He mentioned what I had not thought of, with my drug-addled brain, that there was no way to keep the information out of the hands of minors who might become underage sex workers (something I abhorred the concept of).  I dropped the idea as a serious goal, but still fantasized about a world in which I could publish something like that and give it away for free.

All during my time of using hard drugs, I consistently managed to brainwash myself into associating sexual activity with drug use.  That association, coupled with my shame over everything I did in betraying my husband and other loved ones, has left me with no discernible sex drive since I stopped using drugs this time.  All my adolescent and adult life, I’ve had a higher libido than even the horniest guys I’d ever met.  So the current state of near-complete asexuality is extremely strange for me.  Likewise, as I clear our the e-mail and computer file remnants of all those crazy sexual behaviors, I’m amazed, disgusted, fascinated, and repelled by everything I wrote and did.  I remember those events almost remotely, like watching a documentary about someone else, yet I remember being in those situations physically as well.  I no longer know who the person was who did those things, nor do I know who I am now, either.

Anyway, I no longer have the slightest desire to fuck strangers or to fuck for money, so I can say ‘good riddance’ to my former porn-star dreams.

My Prostitution Past

I haven’t really talked much about it, mainly because right now it’s all tangled up with many memories that bring a lot of conflicted feelings to the forefront right now.  I think about it several times a day lately, though, always with a sense of regret and not a little bit of sorrow.  I had a constructive conversation last night about that part of my past, quite a few reminders of how things went down at that time.  Here’s some of how (and why) it happened:

When I started smoking crack, after a few years of snorting cocaine, I quickly discovered that my methods up until that point of obtaining my highs would not suffice to satisfy my new level of craving.  Crack burns through money a lot faster — smoking cocaine creates a much higher level of euphoria, mostly because it delivers a greater amount of the drug into the bloodstream much more quickly.  Unfortunately, it also leaves the system more quickly as well.

When cocaine is snorted, it leaves a layer of powder over every surface of the sinuses, which then proceeds to seep into the bloodstream slowly, and continues to transfer as moisture from the sinuses slowly seeps into the dry powder layer (and any subsequent layers that are piled onto the first by continued snorting).  The drug-into-bloodstream-into-brain transfer continues taking place for an hour or more after one stops snorting coke.

When coke is smoked (freebased, either with ether or in rock form), almost all of the drug enters the bloodstream all at once, hitting the brain pretty damn near instantaneously.  It is processed out of the brain very quickly also, so the euphoria lasts anywhere from about 3 to 15 minutes (at the most, for most users).  The stimulation (awakeness) lasts somewhat longer, maybe 30 minutes or so, but once the euphoria wears off, cravings and irritability are pretty universal.  For me, after a couple of years of smoking crack, I stopped getting euphoria almost entirely, my “high” consisted only of just more cravings, followed by misery.  But I get ahead of myself, and have digressed for too long.

When I got tricked into smoking crack for the first time (I didn’t want to ever try it, I knew it would get a lot worse if I did, but I underestimated the power of a crack fiend’s desire to get me hooked so he can mooch drugs and sex from me) I quickly switched from sleeping with my dealers for drugs to walking the street to get money to feed my habit.  Back then, it seemed like “an adventure.”  I knew a few prostitutes, I had helped watch for police for them in exchange for information about how they identified customers, how they identified and avoided the “vice” and “jump-out boys” (police rolling down the Blade, four or more of them in each single large tint-windowed SUV, waiting for a vice officer to confirm having positively identified a target — a prostitute, pimp, dealer, or someone with an outstanding warrant or who was banned by the courts from the area for previous prostitution or drug activity — or, after seeing such activity taking place as they go by, they roll up to the target(s), quickly stop and all jump out to arrest everyone involved), how to keep from getting jacked (mugged), how to keep from getting killed/raped, how to negotiate the terms with the john, how much to charge for which activities, and so on.

After about six months of this, getting tired of subsisting on the money I got from “flying a sign” and “spanging” (panhandling by holding a sign next to a busy corner where cars had to stop or by begging people for money, like people going into a corner store or at a gas station), I hooked up with a guy who had had a prostitute as his last girlfriend.  It was the first time I was able to come by information on how prostitutes could work without a pimp.  He offered to help me by watching out for me as my “driver” (a very different dynamic than the pimp-ho situation I had studied before, which is what had turned me off about actually working the streets myself before then — the driver-prostitute dynamic was one where the prostitute shares a percentage or a set fee with the driver for each job she takes instead of giving all the money to a pimp and then begging the pimp to provide for her basic needs) with no fee required, only an agreement that after I did a job we would go back to our motel room and talk about it while we fucked.  That day I turned my first trick, and made a hundred bucks (which is not really all that typical for girls that work the street instead of Internet or local paper ads).  The sex was hot, but the date ended badly (for me).  But that’s a story for another day.

I had figured out how to work the Blade as a “renegade,” (also called an “outlaw” — as opposed to “in-law” – hos of the same pimp call each other “sister-in-law” and the group of them together “in-laws”).  The others on the street I came to know almost universally resented/hated me (unless I was buying from them, selling to them, sharing the cost of a room, or getting them high so I could stay in their room while we used) because I wasn’t “in pocket” for a pimp.  I didn’t meet any other prostitutes who worked alone for more than the hour or two it took to hop from one pimp to another.  That happened a lot for most girls out there.

I still live near the track I worked most often, it’s not far from the house I own with my husband.  I frequently have to drive down it to get somewhere, as it is one of the three main thoroughfares through the north end of the city.  Almost every time I do, I pass by at least a few people I know, people I used with, bought drugs from, sold stolen goods to, got cheated out of money by, or other prostitutes I knew from walking past each other or sharing a mirror to put makeup on in fast food restaurants or from turning tricks with on “doubles.”  Many of them look progressively more run down every time I see them.  A few of them always look about the same, mostly the ones who are able to maintain a pretty consistent standard of living (through mostly working off Internet ads and only rarely turning car dates when things get dry).  But none of them ever look better.

The street never brings people up, it only brings everyone down eventually.  I don’t ever see people I ran with coming into recovery rooms, at least not yet.  I wish I would, it would strengthen my hope and tenuous faith that I’m not fighting a losing battle.  Well, my faith isn’t so tenuous.  I know several other women (and some men) in the rooms that also spent time doing “corner work” like myself — just that they have been around a lot longer, so the street doesn’t show on their faces anymore, like it’s starting to leave mine.

I hope someday that street and the guilt I feel over my steps along its sidewalks will leave my heart, just enough to hold my head high again in my own neighborhood.  I’ll be glad when hubby and I can sell the house to buy in a suburb where street life isn’t so prevalent.  All I can do, though, is live for (and through) today… and know that (overall) things will only get better.

The “Please Forgive Me” Letter, early 2012

I found this letter among some of my husband’s things a few weeks ago.  It gives insight into how I was feeling just before I went into the detox unit of a local psychiatric hospital back in late January or early February of 2012.  I’m not sure whether or not to be grateful that my husband never throws away any piece of paper he has, ever — the reminder is a hard one, of how needy and desperate I had become.


Dear Hunny Bunny Love Monkey

Somewhere deep inside me is left a shadow of the woman you fell in love with, and she very much still loves you.  But she hasn’t been in control of me for a very long time, and I have no idea how to get back to being her again.  I’m so lost – you’ve known that as well as I have for a long time.  And I have done so many things wrong, and I can’t seem to find the strength to do the right things at all any more.  I feel so empty and worthless that I often think that hurting you and my family more [with suicide] would be kinder than going on being the evil pathetic excuse for a human that I have been.

But figuring out how, and where, and when to end my life makes me realize that as selfish as I am now, killing myself would be the ultimate, absolutely most painful thing I could do to you (and my family), more painful than the stealing, and the lying, and the cheating (breaking the rules & sneaking around).  I just don’t know how to start doing better, working toward making things right, how to stop breaking your heart, stop killing what little tiny bit of love you have left for the wife I used to be for you.

I’ve been killing myself slowly for at least the last 4 years.  Once cocaine came into my life, all my happiness, strength, follow-through, ability to focus, kindness, consideration for you and others, health, centeredness, balance, intelligence, creativity and more… and most of all my love for myself and for the people who were important to me and so much the center of my world then – all of those things have been destroyed, disappearing slowly but steadily, in such a way that I didn’t notice until it was too late & I was too weak against the power of that powdered concentrated psychopathic self-disintegration – like the barrels of oil or blood diamonds to a wealthy right-wing republican – I simply had to keep collecting more and more at everyone’s expense, especially yours & mine.

So I’ve taken risks.  The part of me that does still love you can’t stand to keep stabbing you in the back & so I’ve put myself in danger over & over again, hoping someone or something else will end your & my suffering, so that it won’t be my fault that my death will cause you even worse pain.  In a way, I’m glad I failed to bring about that end, because as much as I can’t bear the thought of the price I’ll pay for my weaknesses and pathetic evils that I can’t stop repeating – the price of losing you for good – I do want you to be happy again, and I know if I went so far as to put you through being a widower it would take you so much longer to be happy again than if I were to just lock myself up & let you get on with your life without me.

Why can’t I just give you as much love as you’ve given me?  Why can’t I just STOP this fucking shit and save our life together, and the house, and our love for each other? Why can’t I be the me I used to be before cocaine & the hippy crack coke nitrous substitute that devastated my brain?  Why can’t I stand on my own anymore?

As much as I have treated you worse than an enemy, I hope you will one day feel that our life together was worth the pain, and that you will stop hurting enough to feel at least a small amount of the love from me that you really do deserve but that I haven’t been able to give you like I should for so long.

Please forgive me, please please please let me try again after I get help like I’ve needed for so long.  I really do love you, Hunny Bunny!


 

A very short while after writing this letter, I went in for detox, horribly sick with bronchitis.  After 9 days, they discharged me, and the day I got out I went right back out to get and do more drugs.  I started going out to my Dad’s place out near the coast to get clean, staying there a month or two at a time, getting 30 and then later 60 days at a time, only to return home and, soon after, to relapse again.  Hubby started locking me out of the house when I refused to go back to my dad’s, and that’s when I started living in the shed, on the lead-up toward the final bottom that I reached when I started to get serious about recovery.

Learning to Die, Part One – “Fatal Attraction”

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series (Writing101, Day Four: The Serial Killer).

LEARNING TO DIE

Part One: “Fatal Attraction”

I always thought I would never even try a “hard” drug.  My dad had told me many horror stories of his friends that “never came back” from heavy acid trips and although he never mentioned that he had tried cocaine, speed, and heroin until after I was well into my own bouts with addiction (and recovery), I had been given enough information through his stories of girlfriends lost to addiction, through public education, and through the scare-tactics of the churches I attended as a child, that I was certain that the “harder” drugs were too dangerous to even try.

That being said, I still experimented heavily with alcohol and marijuana, consuming both semi-regularly from the age of 16 until my introduction to cocaine later in life.  I had tried pot once, in a very small amount, before moving out of my hometown, at 16.  Later that year, I decided my only escape from my mother was to choose voluntary psychiatric care at a nearby mental hospital for a few months, and when I got out I went to live with my father and to attend a nearby alternative high school.  There, the common practice after school was to go see the school pot dealer in the woods across from the school and smoke up with him.  I’m not sure how many times I did this, perhaps a few, but I know that I stopped when I had an experience that scared me straight (as far as going out in public when I was stoned).

One evening after smoking out in the woods, I got on the county transit bus to go home to the neighboring town where I lived, stoned out of my gourd.  I fumbled with my change for a long time, dropping quarters on the floor and stumbling around while picking them up.  Finally, I finished paying, got my transfer, and sat down near the front door.  When I got closer to home, a man in a dark blue sweat suit, carrying a navy blue gym bag that proclaimed in bright white letters across the side, “POLICE,” walked up to the front of the bus next to me, leaned over next to my face, and inhaled deeply through his nose.  That sniff seemed to last forever, and it freaked me the fuck out.  I was frozen in place.  He finally stood back up and said, “Sorry, I just had to do that,” and he exited the bus.

My mind spun faster than a gerbil wheel, my eyes watched the window through the back for following police cars, my heart jumped every time we went to make a stop, certain that uniformed officers were planning to board and take me in every time those doors opened up.  I finally made it home safely.

After that, I only toked up when I didn’t have to go anywhere or when I was sure I wouldn’t encounter anyone else while I was baked.

As far as alcohol went, I was able to get a hold of it regularly.  When I was at parties for older friends, I would drink to excess, getting pretty sloshed, then taking the bus home to my grandparents’ house where I lived with my dad in the basement.  He never said anything about me coming home smelling like a distillery, maybe because never really got into any trouble that way and I always came home, albeit pretty early in the morning.

However, one episode encouraged me to be more moderate in my drinking.  When I was 17, I and three other friends decided to try to finish off a full half-gallon of Everclear in one night.  I woke up two days later, praying to a god that I no longer believed in, hoping that he would just let me die.  The pain in every cell of my body took at least another three days to subside, and after that I didn’t drink to blackout ever again, usually I drank to get a small buzz going, and then would switch back and forth between alcohol and water to stay just a little buzzed.

Things changed the year I turned 30.  The fall before then, I tried mushrooms for the first time, having a pretty intense and partly uncomfortable trip, in which I lost my fear of death, or so I thought.  Shortly after, I was introduced to whip-its (nitrous oxide) and the wonders of its anesthesia.  Mushrooms did not become a regular part of my experience, but nitrous did from then on.  Nitrous, along with the things I would later substitute for it, would soon change my world.

Later will come Part Two: “Blowin’ in the Wind”

Three Songs That Saved My Life

Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you (Writing 101, Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice).

Before starting: The exercise calls me to write for at least 15 minutes, and however long I spend writing today to be my average writing time for the rest of this month’s course’s exercises.  A lot of people have been saying on The Commons for this month’s course that they find the time passes too slowly.  Not for me.  I have, so far, found myself having to stop myself when I’ve already gone over.  I’ve heard the term “bloggorhea” (like diarrhea of the mouth, but transferred to blogs) used to describe tendencies like mine to just write endless posts about what I find interesting.  I think my challenge this month will be to find a better “economy of words,” as my friend Nancy (an acclaimed gallery artist and former high school English teacher) from my young adulthood claimed was the only real thing my writing lacked.  And here I go doing it again.  Time to just do the exercise.

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

1.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C Minor, as performed by Vladimir Horowitz on a cassette tape recording made during the early 80’s.  Also called “Pathetique.”

I still have the cassette, somewhere.  The music encoded on the magnetic tape of that cassette has been fuzzed out by the noise created by having played it many too many times.  I would play its movements, then rewind, then play it again, and rewind, repeating these as often as I needed to until the tears would slow down and eventually dry up.  I was so often so lonely that I would pity myself my (total) lack of any friend my own age – all my friends were adults, who understood my plight all too well, but they couldn’t take the place of the scoffing, mocking, bullying adolescents who were my peers in school.  I often used to say, “I didn’t have friends, I had books,” growing up, but that’s not completely true.  I had Vladimir Horowitz’s fingers caressing those white and black keys, comprehending the absolute despair that overwhelmed me, soothing my pain.  No other interpretation of that sonata has sounded so right to my ears since, no other version does for me what that one did then.  I found another Horowitz version recorded a couple of decades later, but it doesn’t have the same passion, the same skill, it is a faded replica of the older one’s glory.

2.  For My Lover – Tracy Chapman

When I was 12 or 13, I was given my first CD boombox.  My dad had already started collecting CDs, cassette tapes were still sold in stores but it was clear that CDs were the wave of the future.  With that boombox, I was given the three CD’s that were my favorites of my dad’s collection: Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon,” James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits,” and Tracy Chapman’s debut album.  All three were rotated and played on repeat, but the latter was the one that spoke to my adolescence in a way the other two did not.  It was difficult picking just one song from that album – “Fast Car,” “She’s Got Her Ticket,” and “Baby Can I Hold You” were also top on the rotation of songs to get repeated on my headphones and sung along to under my breath at night, but “For My Lover” spoke to a time of great tribulation when I was 14.  I had been dating a 19-year-old, and he got me pregnant.  I miscarried soon after, but my mom (shortly after he had left town to go home to live with his parents again) went through my room, found my diary, and read the entire thing to find out what was going on in my life.  She tried to have the older boy prosecuted for statutory rape, to which I responded that I would volunteer to testify for the defense and appear in court wearing the sluttiest outfit I could find to prove that I had initiated the relationship and that he didn’t know my age until we were already involved.  I felt like I was in prison, I felt like I was being punished for my choice of lover and for protecting him and, in a way, that was true.

3. My Dad’s Gone Crazy – Eminem

This rap song starts out with the sound of someone chopping up lines on glass with a razor and then snorting something with a straw, only to follow with the sound of a toddler asking, “Daddy, what are you doing?”  The song speaks to the craziness of addiction, the anger and self-righteousness that goes along with it, the rebellion against society, and the grief at what is happening, what he is doing to himself and those who love him still in his life. ‘Nuf said.

The Flow of Ink (Freewriting)

Freewriting for 20 minutes (Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind).

I’m torn. Torn between my desire for thrift in using every page of this journal, and between my desire for ink that flows freely from the metal nib of my new fountain pen that soaks through and makes the back of the page unusable.  I opted for the flow of ink this time, as I think most easily for wordsmithing in cursive, and the bold lines stand out indelibly dark purple against the pleasantly beige page.

I almost forgot to write today, I remembered at five minutes to midnight.

I’m writing in the garage, the only place with the needed combination of adequate light, seating, privacy, and the ability to chain smoke cigarettes, a bad habit I will soon enough need to untrain myself from. It’s going to really suck trying to write for a long while when that happens.

I’ve been in a funk the last couple of months.  It’s been difficult to get out of bed for any reason but unavoidable obligations and social occasions for that time.  I wish that one antidepressant were sufficient for combating my clinical depression, but wishes have always been fishes in that regard ever since I hit puberty.

I’m glad to be clean off drugs, but sometimes I really wish I didn’t have cravings anymore.  They depress me even more.  I cleaned the garage out today all the way back to the wall for the first time since we, my husband and I, moved into this house in 2009.  June, in fact, so this month makes it five years that we’ve been here.  So much has happened since then that it feels more like it’s been a decade, but anyway.  While I was moving the dust around, er, I mean moving boxes, I came across a couple of baggies that had once held drugs.  Not together, separately.  One was one of the baggies from when I was snorting cocaine, toward the beginning.  The other had likely held crystal meth.  While I’m glad I was able to eliminate their presence from the house, it was a real harshmellow (a word I invented many years ago) to find them.  A small part of me wished to be doing drugs still, so I could lick the baggies in futile thriftiness – futile because no small amount of residue they could have contained could have any perceivable effect, but I would still have considered that action a relapse.  Most of me was just sad in remembering that I used to hide back in those areas of the garage so that my husband, if he suddenly came out to check on me, wouldn’t see the straw or flame from the lighter and pipe in my hands before I could hide them, to prevent the explosion of rage and sorrow in discovering me attempting to use in secret – yet again.  Every time I encounter another reminder of my not-so-well-kept-secret life, I mourn for all the heartache I put my husband and my family through.  I didn’t share that at my meeting tonight, the focus/topic was on other things and I was more focused on carrying the message to the newcomer who was there, but I talked with a new female friend about it after the meeting.  She was right, a person so early in recovery  like myself shouldn’t be dealing with paraphernalia alone like I’ve had to on several occasions (I blogged about one of those times recently), but necessity has made my cleaning a solitary trial, so far successful in staying clean through it, however.  Yay, I filled two pages!

Why I Don’t Do Legal Drugs

An old friend stopped by today.  He asked me how I was doing, and how I was staying away from pot, considering my husband and non-program friends all smoke it.  He and I used to smoke it together, back in the day, and he still smokes it now.

The thing is, although for long periods of time I used to smoke it several times a week with my lovers, friends, and later my husband, pot is the one drug I never had a problem putting down.  I never craved it when I wasn’t smoking it, and on many occasions I would stop smoking it for months on end with no issues.  I never stole to get pot, I never spent my rent money on it, I never prostituted myself for it, and I was almost always honest about my use of it (excepting at job interviews).  Once I joined a 12-Step program, however, that all changed.  I stopped consuming it altogether, partly out of respect for people who did do those things to get pot, and partly because I believe in the fundamental principles of the program in treating the disease of addiction.

You see, I don’t really have a drug problem, I have a reality problem.  The drugs I took were just a poor method of dealing with reality and my resulting feelings.  Almost anything can take the place of drugs in an addict’s efforts to not face reality – sleeping, eating, shopping, gambling, shoplifting – anything that can give a little thrill that allows us to ignore what we really feel about the way things really are.

The whole point of drugs, for me, was that I was willing to go to any lengths to change my perception of reality into something different, to numb my feelings so that I wouldn’t have to face them the way they were.  Feeling depressed? Overwhelmed? Irritated? Lonely? Angry? Sexually frustrated?  Instead, I would focus intensely on my next “score” (what some programs call “chasing the bag”) that would get me the drugs I wanted, so I could feel “better.”

Eventually, the drugs stopped making me feel good, and instead just made me more miserable.  I no longer got “high,” but I was so deeply enmeshed in the habit of chasing drugs – doing drugs – chasing more drugs, that I had alienated myself from any remaining resources (family, friends, therapists, case managers) for other kinds of real help.  I had managed to change my reality so completely that I had become an outsider to everything and everyone, especially myself.  The last thing I was willing to do was to wake up and face all the damage I had done to myself and all those close to me.

At the end of the road, I spent countless hours contemplating suicide.  I started shooting without cottons (extremely dangerous and deadly), I tried to overdose a few times, without success.  The thing was, a small sliver of my conscience remained,  despite all my efforts to ignore and destroy it so that it wouldn’t bother me anymore.  I couldn’t kill myself.  I couldn’t get high anymore.  I couldn’t get numb anymore.  Drugs only increased my misery… yet I couldn’t stop, not on my own.

See, thinking about a problem will not solve it.  Only action can do that.  I had trained myself into countless methods of avoiding responsibility for my own behavior.  I couldn’t think my way out of the prison I’d placed myself in, no matter what I tried.  My thinking had become flawed, by my own unintentional design.  I thought of everything I had lost because of my drug usage… and that only made me want to use drugs more.

So anyway, back to pot.  Pot is not my problem, but if I smoke it, I get loaded.  Allowing myself to artificially change my reality in any way allows my “stinking thinking” to get going, to say that if one drug is okay, then the others might be okay too.  It’s a slippery slope.  I know, intuitively, that getting baked, or tipsy on alcohol for that matter, would allow it to be all too easy, with my lowered inhibitions, to think “just a little” of another drug would be okay.  Just “one hit” of crack, of meth “a few” whip-its, or pills, one slip-up leads to two, and then a thousand.  I know this.

There never has been a time, since I started hard drugs, that I could do “just a little” of anything.  Stopping is always a gargantuan task for me, once I start I must move heaven and earth to get myself back to ask for help stopping again.  I’ve relapsed so many times in the last two years that I know all too well what “just a little” would cost me.  Everything.

So I Never Forget:

Today, I repurposed the garden shed after it had been sitting, filthy, for the last year, after having been my meth/crack crash pad when my husband kicked me out of the house again for using drugs… yet again.  I’d forgotten … Continue reading

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