Thursday, February 28, 2013

Return of the prodigal daughter

Dear readers, I am going on vacation. I would love for you to post some comments or questions here. What treatment options are available where you live? I am noticing that in many parts of the word, treatment options are very limited.

 In the depths of my addiction, I only went home one time in 1993. I came home a week after my brother wedding. In fact, no one was planning to be at the house. I did a farewell to San Francisco  hit of speed before I got on the airplane. I was so paranoid the whole flight. I believe I ordered some booze to take the edge off. I arrived at the airport to realize I had not idea how I was going to get to West Chester. I was in Kentucky. I was at least one state and an hour drive away from my destination. Getting home was going to take some serious effort on my part with no money.

I took a free hotel shuttle to downtown Cincinnati. Then, tweaking out of my mind, I walked from downtown beyond Eden Park so two to four miles through all the worst areas downtown. Downtown Cincinnati has a burnt out bomb shelter feel with all the old brick building that get heated in the summertime. All the residents flock outside. You have you state liquor store next to the plasma center so the low bottom drunks can get their bottle of wild Irish Rose. There is a methadone clinic and pharmacy of ill repute known to sell you codeine cough syrup with out a prescription. Cincinnati had no needle exchange when i lived there. Someone knew someone who was a diabetic. you would get one needle and use it over and over until it started to pull your skin back. You would sharpen it on a matchbook and prey that it didn't break off in someone else's arm before you got your hit. It had a mix of punk rockers and hobos, gays and conservative Christians. It was the intersection of the South, the North, and the gateway to the dysfunction junction known to me as my parents house.  There are all sorts of dead end alleys and housing project with gated exits. A person could get lost in there and never come out. San Francisco was my mousetrap but many a soul was lost on Race Street.


 I caught a bus to Kenwood mall and hitch hiked to my parents. The house was dark. It is so dark there. few street lights. The only night creatures are animals, not people. I was so uncomfortable I walked a mile to the gas station to get a Dr. Pepper. When I finally slept, I felt old. I got so sick when I was there detoxing. I had thrush and the doctors were afraid to touch me in the local medical clinic. There were so sure I had AIDS. I told my mother "I am a bi-sexual junkie prostitute out in SF and if you can't accept me, I am going to hop the first freight train home." My mom told me "I think you need some rest." and slowly closed the door.

Dear readers, I am going off in search of some rest but I will return next week.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

15 years clean today

The last year of my using was very, very lonely even though I was generally with someone. Ben and I were together for six long months. When I met him, he had fully succumb to the depths of his addiction. he had left his sheltered world and all his friends and set out for the city. When we met, it was an odd arrangement. We loved each other but both us were strung out to the point that we existed in the same space rather than have a relationship. Ben and I were different kinds of addicts. I was what I cal a maintenance addict- I did just enough to get by on a daily basis. Ben , on the other hand, would alternate between pushing things to the absolute extremes and wanting to get clean.

Clean - what is that? What does that mean? Nothing? No drugs? Just smoke weed and drink? Absolutely nothing? Have you ever been clean? Have you ever known anyone that was clean. Never, never, never I thought. To me clean was a mix of chemicals. I will stop doing this and only do that. I will cut back on this. We did heroin. I did speed and he smoked crack. But, at the core of our discussions came a point where the idea was planted in my head. What if- I could actually stop using drugs? I wasn't ready for recovery then. A whisper was in my ear. What if?

Spanky was a good friend to have as an addict. He was like me- hanging on to life by a thread. One thing I can say about him is that he loved me as a person. I told him all about myself and he was very accepting of me. All those fears I had about people rejecting me if they actually knew me were untrue. We were sleeping in doorways, alleyways, hotels, not sleeping. We tried to get off heroin. I went on methadone detox but I could not stop using. That was when I realized that recovery , for me, had to be total abstinence. I had to go it alone. A junkie relationship was too much for me handle. I never drank beer for the taste, I never used drugs to be social, I never could get clean with another person weighing me down.

One of two things was going to happen- I was going to die or I was going to stop. I was having heart palpitations. I was shooting up in the bottoms of my feet. I was so thin and sick they thought I was converting to HIV for my first few weeks in treatment.  When they arrested me, I left everything. I put complete faith into something I had never known. I was willing to rebuild myself, shed my shell, and strip my self to my basic human need to be safe. I was no longer willing to be raped beaten  poked, prostituted, lie cheat steal on a daily basis. I traded numbness for the unknown.

15 years ago. I was in a jail cell with nothing but hope. Today I have love friends kids, serenity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Being present

It is that time of year again. Hopefully I will be fast asleep as I tick of another year clean. I am not sure where you are right now. I am not sure what part of the world you are in. Are you suffering from addiction? Have you used drugs today? Are you feeling alone in recovery? Something unites all of us.

I enjoy being clean but it is hard for me to be present. It has gotten easier over time but sometimes I catch my mind drifting off. I live in a fantasy world most of my child hood.  My adult years were spent stuffing my feeling then BAM we are supposed to process all of them. Flooding is what it is called in therapy. Drowning is what I call it. All of your feelings flow over you like a wave and you are struggling for air.

When I sit with my children and I snuggle with them, I am flooded with a different type of emotion. I honestly cannot believe how much I love them. They are such special little people and I am privileged to be part of their lives. "Read story- AGAIN". So cute. Cute overload. They have balanced out the darker part of myself. I can play tea party. I can look at a leaf in a whole new way. The day they were born, I was reborn. Much of my connection to the universe was restored in the moment I first heard them cry for me. I have love and I have acceptance of myself. They see me as the embodiment of all the things I want to be: good, fair, honest, loving. What a gift.

I haven't forgot about the struggle in my daily life. But there is a time and place for it. I am sharing it with you and you are sharing it with me. As I enter another year in the journey, I will take you to all types of places in my writing. There is a darkness but it leads to a good place. I hope you will take this journey with me.

My brother sent me the picture below. It makes me laugh.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why Write? Why Now?

I have always liked to write. I wrote a book of poetry and a book of fiction when I was a teenager. I always have all these thoughts up in my head that drive me crazy at times. I question myself, I over think things. Some where in the world right now, a person is suffering as I have suffered in the past.

I have watched a few little pieces of Black Tar Heroin recently. On one level, it is painful for me. How did I get to that place? How did I survive? On the other hand, I achieved all of the goals I outlined in the film. In 2005, I got my Bachelors degree in Business Administration. In, 2007 I completed a Masters Degree in Public Administration. I have three healthy, drug free children. I did all those things and more. It can be hard going back to that place. However, I see it everyday in the work that I do, the alleys I cross to get to my job.

I came to San Francisco in April of 1992. I really believed I would go home someday. I also believed that the drugs wouldn't get me. Within a few days, I was passed out on heroin, psyche meds, Klonopin. I was slumped at the bottom of a stop sign. Some good Samaritan stopped and asked me if I needed a ride. "where do you live?" they asked. "Ohio" I told them. Well, obviously no one could take me back there. I had $900 in my pocket. I had my college tuition refunded to me so I could get out of Cincinnati. I was devious, she told me. Ungrateful and hostile is more like it. I was staying with a friend here but he had to put me out as did a series of other friends over the years.

Drugs were like a thirst that could not be quenched to me. The more I got, the more I wanted. One day, there is a subtle shift. You are not just "partying". You cannot go back to you regular life. There is no fooling yourself. When you are wiping blood off your arm with you pants ducked between two cars in an alley way, there is no more delusions of grandeur. Everything in your life crystallizes and you are frozen in the moment of complete failure- this is my life. I am an addict. You have to bounce from that moment to your next hit with out flinching. There are crimes of debilitating humiliation to be committed. I must embrace my fate fully with complete acceptance. The rush of question makes you a victim on the street.

There is nothing worse than using with an addict that talks about recovery. Nothing. Shut the fuck up! You are killing my high. I am in the moment. I suffered for this poison. Let me close my eyes. and sleep. Talk about recovery in the morning when I am sick. Tonight let me forget with fuzzy edges and sleep with no dreams.

Why write? Why now. I have a story that someone needs to tell. A collective unconscious memory for all those souls that have passed through the same misery. Some survived- most did not. We existed. We endured. And now we live.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Never enough

A hole that love can not fill.
A burning star that will not shine
A memory we never made
I fear I am never enough.

Awake I find no purpose
In a crowd I silently scream
I bit the hand that gently fed
Enough was never a word for me.

I strip my skin of all my weakness
I tear my heart out for you to see
I live for nights I trace their shadows
It is never enough. I am not enough

My life in pictures

Sometimes pictures speak better than words













Saturday, February 23, 2013

Drowning

I had this man in my life. He was the synthesis of all the worst things life had to offer. I spent most of my addiction alone. I would sit and stare out the window for hours. Or stare at the ceiling. Many times I wished I would die but I never really thought of killing myself until I met him.

I used to live in an alleyway right off the hustler alley. For the most part the businesses wouldn't complain about the homeless residents. Either that or the police didn't really care. They knew most of us by name. The chevron gas station was nice enough to let us use the bathroom there so I had some shred of humanity left. I never stayed one night in a homeless shelter. I felt safer outside. Enclosed places made me paranoid after years of doing crystal meth.

I hated him. I hated everything about him. He was short, mad, persistent. The second day I dated him he kicked the door in to my room and my life. I had spent $40 for a place to be alone.

He held me down with a knife to my throat. This was the day I was drowning. He was always threatening to kill me. Sometimes he tried. I walked that day. I walked miles to the ocean. First I threw the knife into the ocean. Then my shoes- green clam shell Adidas. Then I threw myself. The water was cold but I wanted to keep walking to have this world end. And then I started drowning.
He was killing me this man. But now I was drowning. The tide was sucking me out. The water was cold. My clothes were pulling me down. I realized when I surrendered to death that I wanted to live. The water, gasping for air. This relationship is killing me but I will not die.

No one rescued me although people on the shore, strangers, covered me with a blanket. This relationship is killing me. He is killing me. The drugs are killing me.

I survived that day. I didn't stop using that day but he never had the same grip on me. I knew I would get away. KNEW it.

Years after I got into recovery, he still tried to control me. I had to get some street justice AND a restraining order. Addiction is like a dip in the ocean. It covers you like a warm blanket. Then you realize you are drowning.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Black Tar Heroin 10 questions answered

I want to get this in one place. Here you go
When was the film made?
The film was made from Dec 1995 to Dec 1997. Originally the film was supposed to be for one year but I believe when HBO picked up the film they wanted two years.

How were you picked for the film?
Steven met a bunch of different people at the youth needle exchange. He wanted subjects that were slightly younger than me. He filmed a few other people  that never made it into the final film

Were you paid for the film?
No. I was not paid for the film. he bought me a hotel to stay in for a week and bought me lunch a few times. I think they left some money for me when I was in jail too. Documentary film makers, in general, don't pay their subjects.

Was I friends with the other people from the film?
Sort of. I never knew Alice. I met Oreo when he was 15 or 16. He was VERY young when the film was made. His mom used to work the desk in one of the hotels I lived in. Jake and I used to hang out. At one point he had a crush on me. It wasn't covered in the film but Jake really liked women. He used to make a ton of money as a male prostitute but he liked women. The drugs had him all messed up. When he got clean, he had a long-term girlfriend.

Why didn't they mention in the film that you were off drugs?
I was off drugs when the film came out but not when the film was finished. The story of my recovery was not the story Steven filmed. We were at odds at one point about this but I've come to accept it.

What happened to you when the film came out?
Honestly, I was very confused and angry. I had no privacy. NONE. People would stop me everywhere I went. I was very early in recovery which was already confusing to me. Now, I use the legacy of the film as a tool to spread hope. Anyone can get clean. anyone- even me.

What do I think of the film?
Honestly, I feel it is one of the best films about drug addiction ever made

What do my family and husband think of the film?
My mom never saw it. All she cared about was me being off drugs. I think the rest are proud of me now.

Do I stay in contact with the people from the film?
Most of them are dead. Alice and I have emailed each other. Oreo wants to live a private life. I see "Jessica" from time to time. She NEVER goes by that name. She also like to remain anonymous. If you came to SF and were asking around for "Jessica" you would never find her. She is clean and doing well.

Contact me traceyh415@gmail.com


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hello to my new readers

I see we added a few new countries-Japan, Poland, Switzerland, Venezuela, Costa Rica and South Africa. If you like my blog, feel free to spread my link.

The carousel

Drug addiction is not a part of my everyday life. I am not sleeping in a doorway today. I am not in a rat infested hotel paying to live in squalid conditions for the freedom to use. I am not degrading myself for money or drugs. I am not destroying my body, my mind, or my teeth today. But addiction is still there. It is under the surface. It is the oil that streaks the water. No one comes out unscathed.

Right now, today, I'm in the up part of the carousel ride. Things are going well and I know where I am headed. To create a meaningful life, recovering addicts crave consistency. The routine replaces the anxiety of not knowing what to do. If I wasn't doing drugs- what would I be doing?! A popular refrain.

The carousel also has down times. The death of my mother. A miscarriage. Not getting things the way I want them. Not getting things exactly as a planned. Not being able to control everything in my universe. Yes, it is that simple. Addiction made me expect recovery to be this perfect enterprise. That simply is not the case. Life happens. My coffee was cold this morning. The horror! The outrage of mortals.

My carousel is turning. Today is an up day. I'm holding on. Savoring the breeze as it turns. Only this time I am with my children. The carousel is turning again





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Suburban Blues

It is that time of year. Time for my suburban blues to lift their veil of secrecy. I have suffered from seasonal depression all my life. There is something about the darkness and the fraud of the Christmas holiday season that gives me the blues. Its not that I am a holiday hater. My mother was always very entertaining with her wreath earrings, her Mr. and Mrs. Claus table decorations, her saturated rum cake paired with her beer cheese. My mom had a flair for the dramatic suburban arts.

 I, on the other hand, have always been of a darker nature. I liked Halloween and Tim Burton movies. I liked to marinate in my misfortune and wear it around the house. Just wait- some day I will get out of here and make it on my own! I will wear black nail polish and black clothes every day! Ha! The suburban blues- if I can't fit in I will not conform because you don't like me anyway so fuck you first.

As an adult, I have a new version of the suburban blues. Trying to make EVERY MOMENT magical is too much pressure for this non- conformist. I have these three little lives depending on me to prevent enormous therapy bills in the future. Valentines- cards for every class mate. Easter- multiple egg hunts. 4th of July- fireworks and picnics Halloween- costumes, parties sugar overloads. Thanksgiving turkey massacre. Christmas- the joy of the hunting and collecting of the perfect gifts they will forget two weeks later. This- and a smattering of birthdays, cultural holidays, other kids birthdays can make a mother crazy.

Sometimes I feel like screaming- hey doesn't anyone realize I AM A JUNKIE. I love to complain. I do. I love it. I want to bury my responsibilities behind the shopping cart of broken dreams and return to my natural state of atrophy. This life has challenges. I am required to talk to people and actually listen to them. I am required to give a fuck on a daily basis. I am required to be present in my life.

 I let my kids play t-ball in the house. I paint my daughters fingernails. I let my son eat goldfish crackers for breakfast. The solution is written in crayon on my walls. The cure for the suburban blues is embracing the moment without judgement.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grammar, Commas, Spelling, Fear

Ok, Ok. I get it. Grammar, Commas, Spelling. Not really my thing. I do use the spell check but I am quite sure things get through that are grossly incorrect. For those using google translator, my sincerest apologizes as I generally use my own version of Tracey language. If you are reading my blog, thank you. I hope you will allow me a few mistake here and there.

A question came up about my past drug use. I considered myself an equal opportunity drug addict. I started out drinking and smoking pot. I can say from the very beginning, I never drank alcohol for the taste. I hated the taste of alcohol. One of the first time I ever remember drinking was warm Pabst Blue Ribbon my friend and I took from the trunk of my dads car on a hot day. It tasted like I felt afterwards, full and sick. I think the first time I remember getting drunk was at a neighbors wedding. I went around drinking left over drinks, mostly whiskey. I had the most horrible stomach ache but that didn't stop me from trying it again. I liked the numbness it provided me. Plus, My father spent so much time in a stupor, I wondered what the fuss was about.

Drugs fed my curiosity for adventure that way sports does for so called "normal" people. I was always afraid of the experience but I did it anyway. To this day, I have nightmare about relapsing on meth amphetamine. In 1992, I spent 16 days awake with around 3-5 hours of sleep in between. I was fully hallucinating, digging up floor tiles, talking to people that didn't exist. At the end of my run, I had a core group of friend that put me in bed and sold my drugs to pay my rent.

"Where are my drugs?" The first words out of my mouth. "we sold them to pay the rent." Well, who told you to do that- WHERE ARE MY FUCKING DRUGS?!". Ah- the gratitude was overwhelming. Needless to say, the friends left me behind so I could continue my love affair with insanity. A habit is an all encompassing relationship. nothing could come between us.

Today, I fear drugs like I fear a natural disaster. It isn't always in the front of my mind but I know that if it comes into my life, it will take everything from me. I treat my recovery with cautious enthusiasm. Hope is a verb, not a noun. I am sharing that my biggest issues this morning is with commas and spelling and not chaos and dope sickness. Writing this blog has dredged up many buried memories and that is okay. My blog content is based on my eccletic reflections on my life. My life and my writing is valuable because it documents the resilence of the human experience. Sharing hope.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Seasons

Growing up in Ohio, life is all about the seasons. We grew up in west Chester. It started out as a sleepy little suburb with big yards. Our parcel used to be part of a farm an a piece of barb wire fence still existed in the back at the end of the property. The 1/4 acre lots seems especially spacious in comparison to our outer San Francisco shack we call a home. The thing I miss the most in California is the seasons.
My mother grew up splitting time between New York and Florida. My father was from rural Kentucky. They were an odd match. I think he was more in his element in the outdoors. She enjoyed the suburban existence but had a neurotic fear of driving which made sprawl uncomfortable for her. Many were the days I resented her for not being willing to drive us somewhere. Last year, I had a massive panic attack while driving my mini- van. The past repeating itself.
I realize as an adult my mother had some type of anxiety disorder and my father was a late in life alcoholic. He was the stoic sort that was quick with a joke and withheld most of his opinions. She was funny and never held back what she thought. Until the day she died, she thought I needed to get my hair curled and wear more make- up. It makes me laugh when I think about it.
Seasons are like moods. Our life is colored by our environment. Beyond watching sports, raking leaves, shoveling snow, and getting a tan in the yard a season means more time has passed. A chance to heal, a chance to gather my thoughts. I miss laying in the tall grass in my parents yard, staring at the clouds. When I look at the shapes form, l believe I can be happy. I can escape in to my thoughts. I love to hear the crickets. No shoes, no restrictions. No arguing. My favorite season. My mood. My thought of promises never kept in the clouds.

California life is very different. Strawberry picking with my kids is my favorite. I'm making new season flavored memories.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Capturing the moment

I had a really good day today. A really really good day. A good day full of uncomplicated emotions and low expectations.

Recovery is saying: I had a really good today today. I want to cherish this day. Tomorrow may be hard so I want to remember this day.

Addiction is saying: I had a really good day today. I wonder what I could do to have another day EXACTLY like this one.

Addiction is a state of suspended animation. You are frozen in the block of self doubt and dependent on a chemical for your joy. Recovery for me is making room for the human experience. No two moments need to be the same. Stepping in the mud, looking at blackberries, simply alive and in the moment.

Destiny

In all of our lives, there are moments that seem to be part of a great cosmic plan of misery. Ppl used to ask me all the time how I ended up in San Francisco. It wasn't destiny. I used to listen to the Doors "the End" on acid and think one day I will go out West. The real reason I ended up in California was that someone was going to kill me and I had two choices: New York or San Francisco. Those were the only places where I knew to get heroin. 
I had an apartment on Mcmillian in Clifton. The neighborhood was a mixture of college town, Gay district, place where mentally ill and whinos congregated. I had an apartment there because I was pretending to go to college in between drug binges. My apartment had no real furniture except a matress on the floor and a broken couch. Graffiti and handprints were on the wall. Basically if you were over the age of 18 you came to my place to get fucked up. If you were under age, you stayed on short vine.
I barely knew this person, a friend of a friend. We were hanging out one night when he confided in me that he had $2,240 in his sock. He had owed the loan shark $2,500 but he was coming up short. He knew what that meant. This person had been in prison for burning down buildings. It just so happened that he didn't really care if the people were in them. There were many problems with my evening. The main one happened when this person woke up without his money. Another transient at my shooting gallery clipped him. 
He held me hostage, this person, this friend of a friend. "Bitch if I don't have this money these people are going to kill me so I am going to kill you". After a few hours of looking for the paper trail " you know what, I'm not going to kill you bitch. I'm going to put your eyes out so you can live the rest of your life and suffer."

I didn't lose my life that night or my eyes but I was on the bus to California as soon as I could scrape together the money. I was a fast learner- don't steal, don't trust anyone, and don't stay in one place. I thought it was destiny that made me come to California but really it was fear. Fear that I wouldn't be able to escape far enough without an ocean and a dirty spoon

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Any day without a needle in my neck

I used to say any day with out a needle in my neck is a good day. I think this still holds true although my life today is a little more nuanced.
Some of my scars I have on my legs are from using water from the top of a car on a rainy day to fix. Some of them are from being so dope sick I would stick that dirty shoe polish directly in my leg. My veins in my arms disappeared in the first few years so I was frequently seen dropping my pants trying to find a vein in my legs. I used to call them the road map to misery. It did indeed look like I had been dropped in a dumpster and chewed on by rats. I only had a rat jump on me once when I was sleeping outside. I ran into a constant stream of human vermin.
The drug world is full of people who feel as if they are some how maintaining humanity however there is some cognitive dissonance there. Where you think you are and where you are- dogging rain drops sleeping in a hustler alley- are different.

Any day without a needle in my neck is a good day. My trousers are where they need to be today. The sun is out. I'm wearing shorts. My scars are out for all to see. I'm not hiding anything.

Thank you for reading

Friday, February 15, 2013

They ripped you from my guts

I don't have pleasant happy birth stories to tell my three kids. Basically, they ripped you from my guts. Today is my youngest sons birthday. His ripping was the most pleasant of the three.

When we found out I was pregnant for the second time, after miscarriage, I was fooled into a sense of security. I thought birth was this natural thing involving some mild sedation and voila! They hand you a baby, put it in cute clothes, and you live happily every after. That was the way my mother had always made it sound. She told me about how, in her day, they knocked her out and when she woke up the baby was all cleaned up. I thought that I would go into the hospital and instinctually know how to push my lovey out. Uh, no. Not what happened.

The first issue with baby one was I gained WAY too much weight. In fact, you are not eating for two. When you are a fatty and old aka advanced maternal age, every visit is about creating fear in the heart of the crazy old lady who dared to fight biology and get PREGNANT rather than read Cosmo and enjoy our plight as a crone. Between the morning sickness and prenatal testing blues, I developed high blood pressure. See- we told you fatty. You are too friggin old. Now you have to come in for monitoring. Every time without fail, the THOUGHT of going there would send my blood pressure through the roof.

Finally, at 40 weeks, my pressure was just too high and they needed to induce me. I didn't realize at the time but induce+old= c-section much of the time. All that birth intuition escaped me and I went straight for the drugs as soon as they were available. I tried, I really tried to push you out sweetie. I was in labor for well over a day and pushed for hours. Between them barely able to get a vein (they wanted to put a line in my neck. I refused. Get someone else-now) and the trauma of getting the epidural turned off while you were pushing on my spine, I was begging for the c-section at the end.

There you were- beautiful, perfect, tiny. You were not eight pounds- the first in a series the doctors were wrong about. It turned out I didn't need an HIV test lovey. You just gained weight slowly. You are still tall and slim like the day you were born.

My birth story for my child born today was a breeze. He was conceived as a birthday present and was a gift from the start. I was cut on time after an hour being poked in the back by an incompetent medical resident. When they were in there tying my tubes, they told me I only had one working tube from the start. At my age and with one tube, all my children are literally miracles. I don't take my gifts lightly. They ripped you from my guts and I love you. Happy birthday to my son.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Madness

I was raised by both my parents. My father was gone much of the time. He frequently traveled, drank, or worked 80 hour weeks. My mother held down the household and insisted on attempting some sort of normalcy.
One of the strangest periods of my life was the years when my grandmother and her husband lived with us. He was awesome. He was 1/2 Native American loved to smoke. He would let you have a few sips of his beer while he told stories about killing people in the war. I was always mezmorized by his tattoo. He liked his slippers, getting his hands dirty. He had the vague smell of motor oil. I admired him. They way he took his teeth out to make us laugh. He seemed real to me.

My grandmother needed him. I am not sure what caused her condition but by the time she lived with us, she had delusions. She would think you were other people " the Rhondas and the Bettys". She would talk to the tv. She scared the living hell out of me and was my caretaker an entire summer. My breakfasts of raisin bran and Lemon Metamucil were followed by any sort of activity that drew me into my shell. I didn't know how to say "she makes me afraid" but I knew how I felt. As an adult working in the mental health field, I have more understanding and more compassion for her.

Today I realize she was a woman she ahead of her time. She spoke four languages English, Spanish, German, and Italian. She worked with small electronics. When the women went back into the kitchen from the factories when the war ended, she did not give up her vocation. She was a painter, a mother, an individual . She was what we all can become when biology and heredity combine for a perfect storm of madness



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thank you for reading my blog

Thank you readers from: US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Ireland, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Jordan, Finland, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Iceland Spain
The Netherlands
If you like what you read here, feel free to share my link or ask me questions

A faded letter

People argue that prostitution is the worlds oldest profession. I have always argued that farming came first, prostitution came in response. You could also argue that being a mother is the oldest vocation as it does not come naturally to many.

There are many things I like to write about in prose. Prostitution is not one of them. The enormous stigma that comes with it makes it an awkward conversation starter. If you are a homeless or drug addicted female, there will be someone in the shadows gently nudging you into prostitution. I'm not talking about a pimp or panderer as many of those girls, and I do mean girls, do not use hard drugs. What I mean is that drugs require money. If your are not a thief or a fraud which I am not, there are limited other ways to fuel your habit. Prostitution is 90% acting and 10% action. It is a fantasy for many, an illusion that someone wants a connection with you even if you have to pay for it.

In my life as a soccer mom, I have had numerous women confide in me that their husband is addicted to porn, visiting strip clubs, chatting with other females. There was no Internet in 1992 so the avenues were very limited. It is easy to blame the woman but I can assure you I never realized how sexually enticing I could be passed out on the sidewalk. The potential dates would shake me and try to wake me up. I was fumbling through my shopping cart when a man in a station wagon with a car seat in the back offered to give me a ride. My participation in these activities was limited compared to many but I see the pain on all sides.

I had to learn to navigate the endless stream of offers of assistance for a place to stay, food, drugs, that were essentially traps that would involve someone demanding something of me. It was for that reason I chose to sleep outside for almost two years. There is a line from 1984 "under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me" or something to that effect. That was something that repeated in my head on a daily basis.
I can only provide my experience as someone with a Scarlett letter that is slight faded but still visible if to n o one but myself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The children

I am hopelessly in love with my children. From the second I saw their faces, I knew a love that beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The lives I created bring a joy into this world that gives me hope. There was a period in my life when I did NOT want children. I think this way mainly because I didn't think they were possible.

Having experienced the evils of the world, I lay awake some nights. Maybe this was why I started having panic attacks at 41. I am unable to sleep because I want to shield them from the dark places that I know exist somewhere. If only there was some road map, some landmarks, I could tell them to steer clear of for their safety and my sanity. I want to give them the best opportunity I can at joy.

In creating my blog, the fuller picture of my life is that I am a caring mother, a good citizen, generally boring on the daily. I traded insanity for the fragile balance between dutiful mother and raving lunatic. I remember we always knew when our mother was really mad "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" or if she called up by our FULL names. I am seeking for find my own niche. The special things about me my kids will remember. Popcorn with movies, tea before bed, kisses and hugs, wiping their snot with a receiving blanket. Who knows what parts of daily existence will create my parenting legacy.

I love the children. I love their soft faces. I love being part of their lives.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My affliction

I didn't follow the trajectory that was outlined for me. It was as if a new life was created for me as a 27 year old. When I stopped using, I had to relearn how to live life. It is amazing how the life of a homeless addict parallels the life of an animal. At first, you roam in packs for the mutual benefit of the entire system. In the end, you spend your time alone, not social interaction, in complete hypervigilance and survival mode.

The first thing you need to do to survive as a using addict is surrender to your affliction. Forgo your dreams. Forget your connections. Destroy your relationships if you want to keep those people safe. Having one foot in society and one foot in the crack house breaks everyone in two. Your loved ones stop suffering when you cut all ties- or so I thought for many years. There was at least two or three years where I rarely called home. In fact, I believe I had almost no contact with my family for nearly a full year. My mother used to lament that she was happy when I was in jail. At least then she knew where to find me.

Surrendering to your affliction makes it possible to suspend all your moral. I was fully committed to getting high. I was willing to do whatever was necessary- things that hurt myself. I remember many cold nights crying in a bathroom or doorway poking myself with a needle for an hour because I couldn't find a vein. I couldn't surrender, I couldn't stop. I could only exist from one hit to another. There was nothing else. If someone would have told me that addiction is .1% satisfaction and a world full of pain maybe I would have understood but I doubt it. I saw something in those pinpoint pupils and the absence of the constant soundtrack in my mind that pulled me under. Addiction is like a rip current. If only I could swim sideways but where I am heading is pulling me straight down.

My affliction was all encompassing. All my time, my relationships, my energy. Recovery would have to be the same way. One of my first memories of treatment was that someone had to remind me and show me how to wash my hands with soap. A pack of alcohol pads no longer constituted hygiene and speed doesn't cure the common cold. I had to relearn how to live.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mundane Details

When I thought of writing about my life, I was concerned about what to put in print. First of all, I don't want to harm anyone with the truth. I think the truth is much more disarming than fiction. The truth also varies from day to day. Today, I may be deliriously happy being clean and sober. Tomorrow I may want to jump in front of the train rather than face all my responsibilities. Sometimes I like to hide in the bathtub. Not that I can't hear children fighting during snack time or feel my water slowly getting cold because I have to share my bath with a toddler. For a moment, I can slip into the water and be where ever my imagination takes me.

Another issue is the weight of my past. It carries a heavy burden like stones on my chest sucking the air out of me. My daughter wanted to be a junior Girl Scout. Explaining to total strangers past felony convictions and arrests for prostitution isn't a pleasant conversation. Something as simple as watching a character get shunned on PBS because they were a woman of ill virtue and desperate means.

The redemption carries it's own challenges. After the track marks fade, the abscess scars lessen, the cravings subside I am still left with a thread of commonality that doesn't exist. Six years of my life were one long day that ran together. I never saw that movie, didn't hear that song. No points of reference that didn't involve narcotics.

I am overcoming. I am coping. I am thriving. I am surviving. These are all versions of the truth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The framework



How did I become an addict? Was I born that way? Did something in my psyche break creating a vacuum of opportunity? No one has those answers. Matter is never created or destroyed so what does it really matter.
Food was my first addiction. Food and depression go hand in hand like the chocolate and peanut butter in a Reece's . I became depressed around the age of 7. I was always the type to be sensitive to the point of fragile. Someone said something about my sister as an eight year old and I pinned them to a wall and started choking them. I had mo way to cope with my reality. My feelings were getting in my way and I started stuffing them.
You may wonder- how does a person eat a whole Sara Lee cheesecake?! Very fucking easily. If you have a question about this, imagine a pain that is only cured with sugar followed by the sleep of a lifetime. The sleep of barbaric overindulging the depression of failing yourself again. The addict was there. My personality was transforming into that of a hardened soul. They'd tease me but I always had an escape. I'd hide the wrappers at the bottom of the garbage can. I was changing, padding my exterior against attention and affection. The framework was in place.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The last day- Feb 26, 1998

February is what I call "recovery month" because it contains my clean time anniversary. It is always a time when I do alot of reflection.

The last day I used, February 26, 1998. I was "living" in the Hotel Kinney with rats, roaches, and other creatures of the night. I was completely emaciated. for the first time in years, I was alone. I didn't have a boyfriend. I had gotten to the point where I was using to exist because I couldn't call it anything else. I had no veins left. I was shooting up in the soles of my feet. I had tried methadone unsuccessfully because I couldn't stop using while I was on it. My habit was out of control. I was using speed heroin and cocaine in the same syringe. I remember it used to make me feel normal, almost like I do now, for a few minutes then came the depression and sickness. I could barely walk from all the needle pricks.

I knew the police were looking for me. I had a suitcase packed in my closet so I would be ready the day they arrested me. I was hoping I would finally get out of jail with my own clothes. When the police came to the door just after midnight, I had been drinking, smoking crack and using heroin. I am not sure why I opened the door but in hind sight I'm glad that I changed my future with one turn of a knob. When I saw it was the police, I told them "all the dope is mine" so they would let my friend go. When they put me in handcuffs, I never asked to bring my suitcase from the closet. I consciously thought "I never want to come back to this place, to this life". And I never have.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mommy vs mama

Being a person in recovery, nothing is ever promised to you. Everything I have acquired in my life since the day I got clean required hard work. The best decision I made in terms of my personal self reliance was to tell my mother I didn't want her to send me money anymore a few months after I got into treatment. It wasn't as if I didn't need the money- I absolutely need it- but I would never be on my own until I cut the cord as a 28 year old. I needed to be my own person, whatever that meant.

My mother and I had a unique relationship. She was a perfect co-dependant and recovery advocate at the same time. Through out my childhood my mother and I were at odds. It always seemed to me that if she only would do this or that, maybe my father would quit drinking. When I got to be a teenager, I saw her in a totally different light. She was from that generation where the family is supposed to stick together. She wanted to work things out and always held out that glimmer of hope that someday my father would stop drinking. I remember being on the school bus on my was to school at around 16. He would be a fixture at the bar in the morning and later in the evening, many times coming home to take mid day naps to sleep it off. I would go off to school so fucking embarrassed by my life. My compulsive over eating provided comfort until I was ridiculed for coping the best way I knew how.

When I was twelve years old, they told me they were going to get divorced and I always saw that as the biggest promise that was ever broken to a child. The promise of hope. The promise of a life without daily conflict, without walking on egg shells. I could tell with in two steps in the door if he was drunk. One day my father broke the cardinal rule of our dysfunction- he drank in the house. I didn't see it, but I know she threw a beer can at him. That was my mom. She had tolerance but wasn't a fool. She supported me at times in my addiction but she held out hope that some day her child would get clean. We talked almost weekly for eleven years of my recovery. One of the greatest joys of her life was my recovery. She told me many times when she dies, she will die at peace knowing her children are healthy and happy.

My mother and I both had three children. I was the youngest- the baby- no matter how old, you are always the baby. The other day, I found out by accident that my youngest child calls someone else mama. It eats away at me that I HAVE to work to support three kids as does my husband. On the flip side, my children will never see me drunk, have a mother that is completely present in their lives. My children only call one person mommy. That is my greatest title- one I shared with my own mother.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Preminition

All my life I have had small visions of things to come. The night my mother went into the hospital, I was watching Battlesar Gallatica and I began to cry hysterically. When I was 17, I was riding on the school bus staring out the window and I had an idea that someday someone was going to make a movie about me. Out of nowhere, I had a dream about an old friend I hadn't seen since the early 90's a few days before he was killed by the police. I had a dream about Spanky. I have these dreams.

Every since I was a child, I had a vision about the lights that kept coming in waves in front of my eyes. They were waves almost as if I was in motion. When I got pregnant in June of 2006, it was one of the happiest days of my life. We had been talking about maybe having children but to get pregnant my first month of birth control! I thought it was a minor miracle like many of the other miracles I have seen in recovery. What kind of mother would i be? Would my child be an addict? Would they think I was a bad person because of all the things I have done? Would I be able to care for this tiny person? Everything in my life changed in that moment.

I went to see OB. Seeing the baby and the heart beat on the ultrasound was a revelation. A life- a life I created. It was as if the past had been erased and everything in my life was focused on that moment. I went home to visit my mother and for the first time, I felt a bond with her as an adult woman. I had grown out of the child phase. I was prepared my whole life for the wisdom I would give my beautiful baby.

The vision, the vision. Floating in water. The lights. Being wheeled on the gurney. The morning I had started bleeding nothing made sense. Why my child? Was it something I had done? Punish me for being a whore a junkie, but not my baby. This was before I had a cell phone so I couldn't call my boyfriend. I lay on the table alone crying cramping have to go to the bathroom with the anxiety of the life that had left me. Why God? Why me? Why my baby?

The worst part was the innocence I had up until that moment. I am a suspicious jaded person but not for ONE SECOND did I really believe anything bad would happen during my pregnancy. The nurses tried to comfort me that I would be able to have another baby. What about this one? no one is allowed to tell you anything until the all knowing doctor arrives. Thank you to the kind ultrasound technician that explained what no heartbeat means since I honestly didn't understand at that moment.

I went on to have three healthy, beautiful, spirited children but this was the worst moment of my life. I have been raped, tortured, held hostage but losing my baby as a clean addict- i wasn't prepared for that. This moment transformed me. It prepared me for the loss of both my parent, the marriage to my husband, the miracle of life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reflections on the first time.

When I Look at my kids, I see reflections of the promise that was once there. I really enjoy the clean slate and their fresh perspective on my life. They see me as a totally different person, one without a past, one that is perfect the way I am today. I suppose this was the way I was before all the insecurities and curiosity that turned me to the drugs.

When I get ready for bed at night, I spent alot of time reflecting. Its wasn't THAT long ago i came to SF. The first year that I did IV drugs, I didn't know how to stick a needle in my own arm. It was only when I became frustrated with sharing that I learned. The first time I did heroin, it was a whole ordeal. At the time, no one in Cincinnati I knew could get heroin locally. People would take the long pilgrimage to NYC and return with some overpriced bags of death to distribute to willing victims. The bags would be stamped with names- my particular poison was 666.

We needed to come up with today seems like an enormous amount of money- $120- so all of us could get loaded. The last thing I wanted to do was try it by myself. I wasn't much of a leader, mostly a follower but people had a tendency to follow me around because I could come up with money. I remember going to the ATM and someone had accidentally left their card in there. I withdrew $40- just enough. That was my over all moto with drugs. I did just enough, never taking too much. I was suicidal but I didn't want to die- at least not yet. That would come after many years of addiction.

The first time one of my compatriots overdosed. He grabbed the table in what they call the death grip. After slipping and splashing water- they asked me if I still wanted to go. Of Corpse! Only half for me. I started into my friends eyes- "look at me" he said. The rest was history. For the next 8 years, I was chasing that feeling I felt. The soft around the edges feeling of fuck it all I would never experience the same way again. A part of my life died that day because I never saw the world through anything but a cracked lens. I traded sanity for instant gratification and loved it. My life was unraveling. Off to the Sub galley.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Dark End of the Street

One of the reasons I started writing again was the overwhelming response to "Black Tar Heroin-The Dark End of the Street". When I agreed to do the movie, it was Dec of 1995. Originally, the movie was going to be filmed for one year. The filmmaker was looking for people younger than myself but i did my best to talk my way in to the Film. I really, truthfully believed at that point in my life that the film was to serve as my last will and testament. I had been using steady with no respite for 4-5 years. I was probably close to 120 pounds. I had an HIV scare in 1992 and had reason to believe I was infected would refuse on and off to get a test. I was paranoid, dejected. I was a constant string of abscesses and abusive relationships. I would say that was without a doubt, the lowest period of my life.

The film ended Dec 1997 after extending an additional year. It was released in mid1998 on HBO and had two million viewers that first week. The issues for me was that I was clean when I twas released. I felt completely exposed as a everyone I ran into seemed to know intimate details of my life. Strangers used to stop me. People searched for me. The media wanted my story. Except I was a new person and didn't want any extra attention.

Fast forward to 2013. I have have come to accept that the film is one of the greatest documentaries of all time. You can argue this point but the evidence shows that 15 years later, people still contact me from all over the world. Something about the film resonates with them. They either know someone like the people in the film or they WERE the person in the film.

In 2013, I want people to know one thing from my experience- recovery is possible. I am a living breathing example of this fact. Take my desperation and make it your inspiration if it helps you.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gifted and Talented

Growing up as a fatty in skinny society was traumatic enough without the unpleasant addition of glasses, an alcoholic father, and the label of gifted and talented. In other words, you are not just a social outcast but you are destined to be intelligent enough to recognize your plight.

Unlike today, in the seventies fat kids were a rarity. There was no plus section, no Torrid. My parents bought me clothes in the maternity section and hemmed them for me. Boys had husky tough skins. There were no obese garamimals.

To add insult to injury, I was a food addict before it was known that eating a bag of of Doritos and washing it down with a two liter of Mountain Dew wasn't normal for a seven year old. I've been on weight loss plans since I was ten. Parents get kinda grumpy with their chubby embarrassment but as a parent myself I see the solution was fairly simple - stop buying crappy food!

Junior High School was excruciatingly painful. Cries of orca the killer whale got old around fifth grade. The saving grace for me was being in the gifted and talented program. I was always challenged to dumb myself down because I wanted to be liked by more than my teachers. Thank you Mrs. Claunch for letting me spend lunch time away from the cafeteria humiliation I had experienced most of my school years. I used to pocket my lunch money, starve all day. While other kids were talking about the social mores of 13 year olds, I got to avoid the daily humiliation of having no where to sit. We were writing code and looking at the stock market in blissful isolation. If only I wouldn't have traded my intellect for social acceptability in high school. I could have invented the next great thing instead of investing in getting fucked up to feel normal. Gifted with less talents

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What it means to be a woman

I was thinking last night on how I learned about being a woman. My mother was born in 1941. She was wedged between two different generations. I used to watch her with great interest, especially on Sundays when she would set her hair. She was one of the last beehive holdouts. While the 70s switched to harshly feathered hair, my mom was still rolling and setting her hair on Sundays. The process was exhausting. First, she had to wash inordinate amounts of white rain out. Then she would put her hair in roller that looked like torture devices held together with bobby pins. When her hair finally dried overnight, there was the teasing, the spraying. I'm quite sure a section of the ozone layer was taken out with her signature 'do. Finally was the reteasing and daily sleep positioning to retain its glory. They say the higher the hair the closer to God. She clearly was a saint. Finally, the hair was topped of by her kerchiefs, accessorized with her pal mall gold 100s, and finished with a touch too dark foundation.
My mother taught me what it was to be a woman. At all times, you do you, be yourself, if you like something, stick to it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Blah Blah Blah Yackety Smackety

After another night of interrupted sleep, i was rewarded at 5:00am by a preschooler refusing to remove his wet pull up and return to bed. The daily battles with this particular pre-schooler have brought out all the worst in me. Sometimes I wonder "does he think I am some type of punk bitch and he can talk to me any old way". I realize when you have taken me back to prison slang, we have some parenting issues UP IN HERE. I know I was a very willful child and I am being rewarded by karma. This preschooler favorite expression is "I can't". we need him to go to the Bob the Builder School of yes we can!!

I was walking to work this morning dodging piles of both human waste and crackheads pushing over stuffed shopping carts. San Francisco is much more than Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge. We have our seedy underbelly but it isn't on the under- its just beneath the surface if you open your eyes. I remember sleeping out in the alleyways for many years. The coldest part of the SF is in the morning before the sun comes up. The sea breeze blows and you better be sleeping on some cardboard. Some mornings I would be wide awake, tweeking in place, praying for something different. Like a job, a place to live, children waking me up, a willful preschooler.