The Responsibility of Being Human

Responisbility

The very moment I woke up and realized that I was completely responsible for my life (not Jesus, not God, not my parents, etc…) I was thirty-eight freaking years old.  Kind of an old bag by then, to have understood such a simple concept about being alive on this planet.  I don’t know why it hit me so hard at that time.  Most likely it was my gay Atheist roommate who made no excuses for any of her problems.  She was mature, responsible and incredibly whole in herself.  She was also dynamically present, which was quite noticeable, because most people are not.  Most people have a million things going through their heads and they get dragged around by those thoughts like they are some sort of puppet being held hostage by their thinking process.  My roommate was all up in the now, without having even read an Eckhardt Tolle book, or having God as a crutch in her life.  She was like, this is my one chance as a human being and I’m going to give it my all.  I am going to be who I am and do my best while I am here.  If I make mistakes, I’m going to clean up my mess.  I don’t have time for nonsense or bullshit.  This is it.

Although I don’t share her belief about this being the only chance I get to do it right, I certainly had a big shift (wake up call) while I lived with her.  I was standing in the mirror, cleaning my dresser when it hit me.  This was right after a dream I had where I stood in the mirror.  Reflected back to me, was Christ in all his white light glory.  Incredible dream that I won’t get into right now (it was for me), but when you have a vivid dream about standing in the mirror and seeing Christ, let’s just say that it sort of has a profound impact.  In real life (after the dream), I was cleaning, and suddenly overcome with the notion that I had no excuses – that I was responsible.  Let me back up a little bit… Prior to the dream, I had lived with the belief that Jesus was going to be coming back someday soon to remove me and all the other “believers” from the messed up planet.  Because of this belief, I was lackadaisical about being here.  It was always in the back of my mind (you see) that I was entitled to not worrying about the planet because God was going to destroy it anyway.  OMG I could go back and slap myself across the room for being so ignorant back then.

The moment I stood there with my dusting cloth, and as I looked into the mirror – what I saw for the first time ever was a perfectly capable human being who had no excuses but to be responsible for myself.  I even considered the fact that Jesus may not be coming back in the literal sense of the interpretation of the Bible.  I mean, I had grown up with this image in my mind of a trumpet blowing and Jesus appearing in a cloud.  He was going to scoop up all his people and whisk them away before things got really bad here, but the thing is – things are really bad here now, and I stopped blaming Satan a long time ago.  People are assholes – selfish, greedy, and lacking a sense of personal responsibility to their surroundings.  I was one of those people to some degree.  My excuse was never really Satan (once I became an adult), but it was my addiction, and some of the trauma I endured.  My excuse was always that I had an out at some point when Jesus came back in those clouds for me, but then it hit me that my roommate didn’t have the Jesus excuse, and also that dream was so powerful – basically placing me in a state of knowing that right here, right now is all we have.  I am what I am always seeking.  There is no separation of “when Jesus comes” and right this very second (which is all there ever is).  So all that future grandiose thinking on my part, was a hoax – a trap really, to keep me in a state of yearning.  It was the very component that makes up suffering.

We suffer because we long to be out of this moment.  We long to be removed from our pain.  We suffer because we don’t accept what is, right now.  We want something other than what we are feeling, what is occurring, how the moment is unfolding, etc, but the entitlement we uphold, is that someone is going to come along and save us from it.  That’s a lie.  That’s a big, fat fricken lie.  I recall the moment I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’m the one who has to save myself.”  Shock.  Desolation.  Fear.  Terror.  All of these awful feelings seized my heart, but that’s exactly when I knew that I had been completely irresponsible (and delusional) for myself and for my own life.  If I was afraid to take complete responsibility for myself, then (so help me God), I hadn’t been responsible for myself for thirty-eight years.  I had been waiting for a pie in the sky savior.  I know without doubt, that the savior is never apart from me.

That year, I stop daydreaming about a future Earth and began being present for the earth that was my own human body, which is the only thing I have control over.  I became aware of what I was doing, how I was acting, what I was putting in my mouth, what was coming out of my mouth, and how I responded to the world around me.  Other people became more important than my hair (and make-up).  I finally realized that this was it.  Perhaps I will have another chance to get it right in another lifetime, but all I ever have is right now – right this moment, and right this moment, all I have control over is me.  So dammit, I’m going to give it my all while I’m here.  I may mess up at times.  I may forget once in a while.  I may have bouts of anger or days of pain, but those moments belong to me and I’m going to embrace them.  I DO embrace them.  I certainly do.  I have a fire burning in me like never before – a passion for life – an inner power that burns with the moment.  I’m excited to be alive, and open to making a difference, but the difference I’m making isn’t that I am trying to change everyone else.  I’m simply changing me to be the world I want to see (thanks Gandhi).  I have a deeper love for my environment, the people around me, and also for myself.  That moment when I woke up and decided to take responsibility for my life was scary, but since then, my life has been a series of small miracles (some bigger than others).  Because I have a grip on reality now, I understand that I am creating it as I go along.  That sense of wonder is stronger than ever, and I’m no longer pining for someone to come along and change it up.  If I want change, I know (for a fact) that it begins with me.  And in the profound words of someone else (I don’t know who said this)… “We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS,” meaning, stop trying to DO something, and start BEING someone while you’re here.

Celebrating Four Years Without a Drink

On top of the world

A life free of alcohol and drugs, is a damn good life.  So much has changed for me in a short amount of time.  For several years now, I’ve practiced not picking up a drink, every single day.  Today, even in the most precarious circumstances, the last thing on my mind is having a drink.  Sometimes I get through difficult situations without thinking at all about drinking.  Afterward, I’m astonished that numbing out my problem didn’t even cross my mind.  The practice of not picking up a drink, is working for me.

What I’ve discovered over these last four years, is that experiencing my life on an emotional level, is so much better than numbing things out, or putting off the inevitable.  I don’t know why I was so scared of pain, sorrow, or loss.  All of these emotions is what makes life so interesting.  Without them, I could not be the artist/writer that I am.  I’ve gone through terrible weeks when I felt the world crushing in on me, and I made it through the other side in one piece, knowing that nothing I feel is eternal.  Life is about what I feel, no matter what is happening in the physical realm.  We are all having different experiences (sometimes in the very same room), so it is clear to me now that my life is about my perception of things.  I have the power to change my perception of my life without enhancing it with a substance.

I’ve experienced bliss beyond measure while I was sober, and heartache so deep that I felt my guts spilling on the floor before me, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for a day at the bar.  I would rather someone rip my heart out, slam it against a brick wall while I watch it slide down onto the cement, then to numb my pain with a drink.  I would rather feel everything as it comes, even in furry, agony and melancholy, because none of those emotions are eternal.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, I get to feel elation, joy, and sometimes I see something so beautiful that it makes my heart ache.  When I laugh now, it comes from my soul, and when I talk to people, I’m no longer flashing them a mask of my images because I am becoming comfortable with who I am in my own regular skin.  The authentic me may not be a comedian, a model or anything spectacular or grand, but I like her as she is in her organic beauty.  The more I get to know myself, the more I love myself, and the happier I am.

I’ve gotten to a place where I think about other people more than I do, myself.  I consider other people’s needs, and wants, and I try to be accommodating.  I’ve made genuine friends, and I’ve become one myself.  I’m closer to my family, my children, and I am reuniting with my brother.  Every day is a new adventure where I let go of yesterday and begin as if my slate is clean.  I don’t hold on to anger, jealousy or other people’s wrongs.  I am present more often than not.  Sobriety has been gentle with me. It doesn’t kick me when I’m down or make me feel worse when I’m having a rough day.  Recovery has given me the strength to walk through my fears, ignore all my doubt, and the courage to go after what I want in life without competing to win.  I’m doing things now because I find joy in them – not because I’m trying to be somebody extraordinary.  In my sobriety I’ve learned that everyone is extraordinary – it is simply up to them to discover their own unique place in the world.  I’m certainly discovering mine, and life for me now is never boring.  It is a gift.  I wake up each morning so excited to be alive.  On days that aren’t so good, I’m still excited to be alive.  I know that my perspective is all I need to change, which places the responsibility of my life, on me.  I like being responsible.  Although it is scary, it keeps me awake to this human experience I’m having, and it is constantly reminding me that I have more control than I ever thought I did in my addiction.

Today marks four years without a drink, and I’ve come such a long way.  I never thought I’d be where I am today.  People trust me.  I have a wonderful career.  I’m taking care of my body, mind and soul, and I am no longer confused.  I’m present for my life and for the people who are in my life.  I’m doing what I love and I have more freedom now than I ever did in my addiction.  I love my life.  I love who I am.  I love being alive.  That’s something I could not shout out four years ago, so if anyone asks me if it has been worth it, I would say, without a doubt!  Today I’m on top of the world (and tomorrow I will be too).

For Those of You Who Love an Addict/Alcoholic/Self-Destructive Person

Loving an Addict

No one is ever going to save an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person from themselves.  I don’t know how many people came along in my life and tried to save me while I was in my addiction, but all they got from the relationship was hurt and confusion.  It wasn’t that I was incapable of feeling love, because I definitely loved people (including my two children), but my self-loathing took precedence over everyone and everything.  I could hide behind motherhood, a career and a meaningful relationship for long stretches of time, but seeping out from behind those images I tried so desperately to uphold, was a deeply terrorized person who lived in a state of absolute fear.  If you don’t know what that’s like, then it must be difficult to grasp the behaviors of an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, because they can be so damn lovable at times, and terribly mean when you least expect it.  That unpredictability is because an addict is a person who behaves according to how good or bad they feel.  If they are feeling high, then you’re the best thing that ever happened to them, but if they are too drunk or going through withdrawal, or needing a drink or drug (or whatever it is that keeps them from feeling the terror within them), then watch out.  Anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

Reasoning with someone who lives their life in a state of fear is like reasoning with a toddler about why they aren’t getting a cookie that’s already in their hand.  It’s impossible.  You aren’t going to get anywhere except frustrated.  Everything an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person does is out of fear.  Nothing takes precedence over their deeply ingrained fear.  There will be times when they seem clear and ready to make a change, but the fear will always override.  The only cure for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, is for us to acknowledge our fear and to step directly into it.  We have to do the work ourselves, and many of us are afraid of the work because the fear of facing our demons is overwhelming to a degree that will push us further into our addiction.  This is why the programs of recovery teach us to do things “one day at a time.”  In our addiction, an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is not capable of seeing things the way a “normal” person sees them.  Instead of seeing a mountain as something you climb one step at a time, we only see the whole of the mountain, and feel like it is an impossible journey.

If you are dealing with an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, you may say things like, “Well, they don’t drink/use/behave badly all the time, so I don’t know if they are really “an addict” or if they are just having a hard time in life.  That is something my loved ones told themselves, because the thought of me being “an addict” was devastating to them.  People hear that word and they think “hopeless…”  Normal people have a difficult time digesting that label because it sounds like a person is doomed, but it can be alleviating to recognize this trait in someone who has been abusive and unpredictable, because it gives definition to their strange and hurtful behaviors.  Your alcoholic/addict/self-destructive loved one’s fear is like a boulder chained around their neck.  Sometimes they have slack in the chain, but eventually it is going to take them down.  It is only a matter of time.  Although the chain and boulder is not who they truly are, no amount of love, reason or chivalry will unlock that chain.  The addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is the only one who holds the key.  Helping them out of their addiction is an impossible feat, and it will strip you of your own self-worth.

Loving an addict is like throwing a valuable coin into a well and hoping your wish comes true.  The value in the coin doesn’t guarantee a wish coming true. Your love cannot reach the bottom of the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person’s fear.  The only way they can move through the fear is to recognize it for themselves, and to be willing to walk through it.  The willingness has to come from a place deep within themselves.  Sometimes it takes several years and many rock bottoms for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person to become willing.  For me, it took me realizing that I could never die drinking, so I inadvertently decided that I wanted to live my life on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It was my own personal awakening.  No one who tried to save me ever got very far.  I was drowning in my fear of life, and my dread of feeling anything other than high.  I had no idea at the time, that my emotions were temporary and beautiful (like the seasons).  I thought everything I felt (the misery) was eternal, and this is the delusion that kept me drinking and using for eighteen years.  I had to lose everything in order to realize no matter what I went through, and how difficult life was, that I would not disappear. When I was still alive and well, during the great losses of my life, I finally understood how valuable I truly was. Prior to that, no one could love me to that degree of understanding. You cannot love someone to a place of ultimate recovery.  You simply have to know that your loved one is in a state of fear, and it is impossible for them to accept love when love is the furthest thing from fear.

If you can grasp the way an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is, the hurtful things they do and their strange behaviors will make more sense to you.  I know it’s difficult, because when one of us shines, we are brighter than most, and our loved ones recognize that there is more to us than the self-loathing, but that fear will always seep through the cracks of the images we so desperately try to uphold (whether that be a relationship, a job, or our vanity).  The fear blinds us from ourselves, but the one thing you have to know is that we are not hopeless.  We have the key to our own recovery.  Many people can and do recover from this affliction, but no one recovers because someone loved them to the doors of AA, or into treatment.  A person who is living in fear cannot be moved from the outside in.  It has to come from within.

If you love someone who is struggling in their addiction, and you’ve discovered yourself feeling lost, confused and yearning for their love – you are not alone.  Those of us who are afflicted with alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing are some of the brightest people around, who simply do not know how to balance in life.  We are loveable.  We are the kind of people that want to change the world, yet we feel so small in the grand scheme of things.  We cannot see that the only thing we need to change, is ourselves.  We see the mountain, rather than the small steps it take to get to the top.  We have a different perspective than you is all, but in order for us to change our perspective, we have to be willing.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of that person who is struggling with their alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing and love them enough to let them find their way.  Letting go is like having unconditional love for that person and not expecting anything in return.  It sounds awful (kind of like recovery sounds to the addict), but it will set you free.  Letting go doesn’t mean you are giving up on them.  It simply means that you are in acceptance of their affliction, which takes precedence over everything.

Nobody enjoys feeling vulnerable, which is where loving an addict will take you very quickly, but vulnerability is a place of surrender, and surrender is the beginning to your own healing. Acceptance and surrender isn’t only for an addict in recovery like me. It is for anyone and everyone who wants to experience the fullness of their life. It is essential. So when it is all said and done, be grateful to the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person in your life who brought you to this place of vulnerability. For they have unknowingly offered you a beautiful gift.

Striving for Wholeness Rather Than Greatness

Be Yourself

It is interesting to me how we think of ourselves versus the actual way we are, or how other people perceive us. I often think of the most influential people that I have met, and how the world around them upholds them in a certain light, yet their family rolls their eyes at their antics. The persona they uphold is powerful, yet their personal life is quite possibly lacking something; perhaps attention to detail. I know comedians often repeat their jokes in different settings, which can get incredibly old and taxing on a significant other who hears the same thing over and over. I’ve met pastors who hold their congregation to high standards while their children were out in the world causing havoc. I think I’ve seen these types of gaps in people’s lives enough to pay attention to myself and how I’m putting something out in the world that I’m not exactly paying attention to in my immediate affairs. The images we hide behind create incredible illusions. How many people do we meet that are genuine and transparent? I find those kinds of people to be humble and fascinating; more so than those who can talk a good talk.

I had a conversation with someone yesterday about how money changes some people, and how it doesn’t affect the way other people behave in the world. I brought up the fact that I want to be one of those people who treats everyone the same, whether they are famous, infamous, or living on the streets. I recall so many times when I’ve entered into places where I felt extremely uncomfortable, and someone of significance approached me and graciously made me feel welcome. I’ve also been in several settings where I was snubbed for not wearing the right attire or appearing the role. Just the other night while walking around downtown in my sweats, my daughter and I took a stroll inside a new art gallery. They were having an open house. Not one person treated us like we were welcome there. If I had been wearing something different, I’m certain I would have gotten at least a handshake or a nod. But nope. We were treated like outsiders and ignored. I am the same exact person whether I’m wearing a gown, or a pair of jeans. It’s so funny how people treat me differently according to what I’m wearing.

We put so much emphasis on our looks and how we appear to the world, but since I’ve worked on myself from the inside out, I easily see through people’s personas. I can tell when someone is guarded, or when they are hiding behind a thick mask of illusion. I can see people who do not even know that they are hiding behind masks, and those that think they have it all going on, yet their lack of self-worth is casually leaking through. I think back to myself when I was in their shoes and wonder how many people saw right through me. I used to be a great actress. Now I’m embarrassed when I find myself in a situation where I’m trying to impress someone, or when I throw out an impressive image to hide my insecurities. More than anything, I just want to remember that I am no better than the person standing next to me. I have worked hard on myself, but I also vividly recall what it was like to be uncomfortable in my own skin, and how it feels to suffer. I try to offer my most genuine self to new people now, although it’s tricky to be genuine 100% of the time. Many people have a way of expecting impressive stories or pulling out that mask of mine that I’ve tried to leave behind. The world is filled with people who want to impress the world.

Before I go into a new place where I might feel uncomfortable, I do a simple little meditation to ground myself. I pretend that I am a tree and I imagine my roots going deep into the earth and then wrapping themselves around the earth’s core. I do this so that I feel like I’m rooted deeply in who I am, rather than being easily swayed by the people in the room. If I feel grounded, I’m less likely to feel insecure or to need to hide behind some weird mask. I think many people struggle with social anxiety, which is why many of us drank to begin with, and why many people do drink in social settings. I want to be one of those people that can walk into any room and feel magnificent in my own skin. I’m working on it… (one day at a time). I don’t beat myself up (however) when I do find myself feeling insecure or when I go back to my old ways and hide behind images. I am compassionate with myself, knowing that I’m still learning and growing. I understand that I have a long way to go. It is not a negative thing to feel insecure. It simply shines a light on what I need to work on in myself. When I sense other people feeling insecure, I offer that graciousness that has so often been offered to me in the past. There is nothing like someone who treats another human being like they are more than welcome, no matter who they are or how they appear. I know how good I’ve felt when someone “greater than me” has treated me like their equal. It can really give a person wings.

I would rather have nothing of significance, or to be no one of significance, but to have been known as someone who was genuine, and also someone who made others feel welcome. I feel like it has taken most of my life to get to know myself, and I want to honor that self of mine, rather than try to be someone I’m not, or to appear better than I am. Humility is not something to shy away from. It is a cloak of integrity, and the shelter that keeps us in alignment with who we truly are. I used to want to be like every other person. Now I realize that I am the only person who can be me, and I am so incredibly excited about sharing my uniqueness to the surrounding world. Being who you are is the greatest gift you can give to the world. It is also satisfying and noncompetitive. It’s simple and free. I think my greatest life lesson has been that when I had nothing, I was still me. I was still alive and there. There was nothing lacking. I try to carry that with me wherever I go now, and it has completely set me free.

Turn that Frown from Longitude to Gratitude

Gratitude

I know… pretty annoying title, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed, annoyed and perfectly tired of people who spend their lives thinking positive. (Shame on them for not being “realists.” Life is not all unicorns and butterflies). Pretty easy to say things like, “Have gratitude,” or “Look for the silver lining…” when life is not twisting you up inside, but when you’re feeling homicidal or hostile toward the world, those little sayings are enough to make you actually pull the trigger, or to at least pull the blankets up over your head as you sink lower into the darkness. I get it. I understand pragmatism, realism, pessimism… (Murphy’s Law-ism). I’ve tried all these ways of “being” after my recovery peers made me feel like I was walking around with a rainbow up my ass, and my counselor told me to get my head out of the clouds. I decided to take off the positivity suit and to button up in one of those negative attracting gowns. You know the ones… They don’t allow any light in at all, because that would be a set up for my demise.

Okay enough joking around. This is going to be simple enough. Personally, after trying out constant pragmatism, and then feeling mostly frustration and annoyance, I decided to give positive thinking a real chance (without being delusional and ignoring the bad stuff. You can acknowledge the bad stuff, laugh about it, and not get sucked into it, however), and honestly, life began opening up for me in ways that seemed to move mountains in my life. When I was being cooler about life, life became cooler with me. People were nicer, I was able to laugh more, situations that used to boggle me were not that big of a deal, and better opportunities were knocking at my door, rather than me having to climb barbed wire to get what I wanted. I didn’t accept that life was one way. That to me sounded a lot like ignorance. When you are open to receiving, without judging what approaches, with an attitude of gratitude (yes I said it, so roll your eyes… whatever dude), there’s a real intelligence to this way of being. I know a lot of people say that when you’re positive, you set yourself up for disappointment, but that’s only true if you’re positive and expectant of an outcome. So the hell what if life disappoints you once in a while? That simply means that you have to change your thinking around outcome. Open yourself up to a bigger understanding of things. Perhaps you didn’t get that job because subconsciously you didn’t really want it, or maybe your child is acting out because your overall negative energy is causing an imbalance with the world around you. Cars break down, computers crash, people don’t pay attention when they are driving, but it’s your thinking that either causes you grief, or sets you free.

If I was a therapist, the first thing I would ask people when they came to me with a problem, is what their thinking and self-talk is around the issue. I would start from there, because after several years of experimenting with gratitude and positive thinking, I’m thoroughly convinced that the way I think, determines my life experience.

I’ll end with this. Yesterday was my first day at a new job. I went from part-time self-employment, to full time employment. The money is much better, but my mind told me that I was imprisoning myself, and that I would be overwhelmed and unhappy. The funny thing about that is – I believe that I attracted this job into my life because I was feeling restless at my other job, and bored. I need to feel challenged in my work. Anyway, yesterday I woke up feeling like there was a boulder sitting between my shoulder blades and I felt terrible going into my first day with the attitude that I was not going to be happy, so I did what any good recovering addict would do and I surrendered to how I was feeling. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Scared. Worried… I actually got down on my knees and thanked the universe for the new job and for the opportunity that was being provided. I especially asked for help and guidance, and I also asked to make friends, to be of service, and to allow me to be a light. “Shine through me,” I affirmed. “Let this job be an opportunity for me to grow, for me to attract people into my office so that I can build new relationships, and to help me be a positive and kind voice that they hear.” Saying the prayer moved me from my head down into my heart, and when I walked into my new office, I felt a sense of serenity. The entire day unfolded in a way that I can only describe as uncanny. Several little coincidences occurred, letting me know that I was in the right place. My office is up away from the main thoroughfare, but several people came up and introduced themselves to me. I was able to offer them a genuine smile, along with a handshake, and confidence in myself when I let them know what I can do for them. Some of them came back around to say “hello” again, and they even entrusted me with their files. I have a job where I’m supposed to be building relationships and trust. I am certainly not “imprisoned” in my new position. No one is hovering over me. I have complete independence throughout the entire day. I am so fortunate, and I know that this job is the next step in my life. The right one. It’s a big giant step in the right direction, but had I sunk into my negativity yesterday, I don’t believe that I would have had such a good experience. It truly is my responsibility to not just “think” gratitude, but to “be” gratitude.

How can I be of service? How is this experience going to help me grow (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)? What can I do to make this experience a good one, even though it feels terrifying? These are the questions I ask myself now. It is so important to me to make the most out of my life, and to feel amazing while I’m here, so this is why I choose to think positive, and why when I feel homicidal, I surrender. Instead of yelling, “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES…” I get down on mine.

Excerpt from ‘Presage in a Bottle,’ by J. L. Forbes

Presage

Twice in my life I nearly drowned in the undercurrent of the ocean. Both times I was caught off-guard by waves of mass erosion sucking and folding me into the lethal body of water like a listless rag-doll. In milliseconds, the shoreline morphed from beauty to beast; first fulfilling my soul, then virtually robbing me of my young life. One of those times, my head crashed into the seaboard. I spun mercilessly inside the rifting tide, which harshly indicated my own vicinity between the water and the land beyond the whirlwind. I was lucky to hit my head regardless of the pain and shock. I dizzily anchored my knees and palms into the sandy floor, offering me enough leverage to stand and save myself. Both of those perilous times, I was dragged, hurled, slammed, twisted and regurgitated. I panicked in the terror of death’s taunt each time, and was instantly alleviated when my pleading lungs sucked in air instead of salt water.

Years later I dreamed of saving a drowning baby girl from a ravage river. Saving her almost took my own life. I pulled her in from the back of a moving speed boat; painfully gripping the wooden swim step with one hand while pulling her out of the river with the other. She was going to die if I didn’t use every fragment of my own strength to rescue her. My heroine tactics sufficed. The girl was brought to surface and survived. She was an infant. I lifted her, handed her over to the people aboard the boat, and then pulled myself to safety.

Upon awakening I knew exactly what the dream meant, although it would be several years before I took heed and followed the path of my heroine self. I fervently remained a drowning child in the hollows of alcoholic bottles and benders with every intention of dying drunk. At the end of my drinking I didn’t care about living. Problem was, I could not drink enough to die. At the end of every bottle and blackout, I found myself awake in the same world I was trying to drown myself out of. Each time I should have died, I awoke in a hospital attached to needles pumping liquid life into me. Goddammit I wanted to remain asleep. Where is my Vodka?

Washing up into a detox facility was me finally saving myself. It was my decision to go. Still drunk from several days of heavy boozing, I was stained with urine, bruised from tumbling on sidewalks and streets, scratched all over from trying to sleep in bushes believing it would be a great place to hide from my desperately searching husband. My right knee was inflated with fluid from clumsy collapses. My palms scraped and bloodstained; face, stomach, feet and fingers swollen with liquor, skin dehydrated and taut, eyes bloodshot and expressive of exhaustion, terror and humiliation. Facing myself in the mirror was seeing an enigma of myself. Who is this lost girl? Where am I?

Cherry Hill Detox felt like shore to me after many nights of drifting out at sea. Even the dry ham sandwiches and watered down tea were satisfactory, as well as the thin plastic mattresses and ongoing commotions from people suffering in withdrawal. Their horror was all too familiar. Sometimes I laughed in sinister appreciation, but mostly I related and empathized in quiet agony and sadness. Opiate detox is excruciating and messy. I’d been in their sweaty sheets a few times when I’d swapped alcohol for pharmaceuticals in a shallow and brief attempt at sobriety. Before my own alcohol wore off during the first night in the facility, I observed what was ahead for me in the likes of other addicts; my hopeless brothers and sisters. What should have been disturbing felt harmonious in comparison to the drunken awfulness of passing out alone in the back seat of my car, or in vacant fields where I always hoped to wake up before being discovered by someone who would overreact at the norms of an everyday drunk.

A presage is a foreboding of things to come. Negative things. An omen of sorts. It isn’t a word I even knew while facing my alcoholism in the end, but you don’t have to know fancy words in order to make intuitive decisions. Intuition does not require any thinking or logistics. It’s a simple knowing of things to come and which direction to follow. Both intuitively and cognitively I knew my ass needed serious help. I had been identifying myself as an alcoholic for seven years by this time.

The morning I went into detox, I was so frightened of my self-destructive behavior, that I completely embraced everything that resulted after walking through those clinical double glass doors. I was in a state of complete surrender, and this is where one needs to be in order to recover. It’s really the bottom line. Surrendering is the foundation of true recovery. And the surrender must be eternal. There is no wavering here. There is no taking back the reigns. You are fucked if you think you get to ever be in control again. When I say “fucked,” I mean, rock bottom becomes a deeper and denser pit. This pit is muddied with terror and self-deprivation. Once you start sliding down that pit, there is less and less in this world, and of yourself, to grab a hold of. Once a person has given up on themselves, all hope dissipates into the wasteland of their own disgrace.

This was the presage in my bottle. The emptiness of every dry liquor container mirrored my internal state of desolation. I knew what was at the end of every bottle. It was more disconnection from who I was, and all of the dreams I ever had for myself, which were many. It was despair beyond measure. No matter the size of my bottle (a half pint, a pint, a fifth, or a five-bottle box of cheap wine), there was never enough. Never enough booze to wet the desert inside of me. It wasn’t even numbing me out anymore. It was scaring me and sucking the life out of me, yet it wasn’t killing me.

I would eventually cry. Tears would come in ample time, but now I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings. Relief and the need for survival in this rancid place dammed my frolicking emotions; parting them from the single particle of sanity burrowed in like a calcified gem within the twisted and haunted confines of my mind. You dare not mix one last morsel of sanity with ravaging emotions. In inconsiderate monstrosity, emotion shall devour sanity.

There really is no diversity in addiction when I think about it now. There is no skin color, fat, thin, tall, short or intellectual vs. idiot. The only difference between us is what drug we abuse the most. Even that doesn’t matter because real addicts only care about one thing and one thing only – where their next hit is coming from. We all relate and empathize with one another on that wretched level. There is a safe and harrowing bond between us all.

(Coming soon to Amazon)

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426859153&sr=1-1

Just Be Who You Are (No Matter Who THEY Are)

Be You

The worst thing for any artist (I’m certain) is when you complete something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you look at it with the sudden realization that it’s crap.  I don’t think there is an artist around who doesn’t have a little voice in their head telling them that they suck, and once in a while taunting them to give up altogether.  It’s even worse if the artist has no other outlet.  Last week when I was considering no longer writing, the only thing that came to mind was to buy a surf board and call it a day.

It’s so weird and awkward to be faced with insecurities out of nowhere when you’ve moved along feeling quite secure.  You followed your gut, and everything felt so intense and right, so you went with it for months at a time, but you were kind of in your own world during that duration, and then you get out into the real world around people who seem to have something that you don’t have, and immediately you’re like, “I’m clueless.  I’ve been delusional this whole time, or naive, or perhaps just foolish.”  You stand there and feel like your legs have been kicked from beneath your torso, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to do with your hands.  I’m always looking around for napkins to shred in these situations.  So you go home and you take it all in, and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do now that I know I’m lacking everything.”  It sweeps over you for a few days, while confusion is poking at you to go down a different path.  I should be more literary and less visionary.  I should be more like her, or after the same things as him…  At middle age, you feel like you’re in high school again and you’re wondering which bridge is closest to home (Richmond or Golden Gate) so you can jump off, but you laugh at yourself for being so dramatic, just like in high school.  I’m just going to buy a surf board, you think.  And call it a day.  I have absolutely no place in this world.  Then you just stand there for a while not buying into the confusion.  By just observing it you realize that it’s really beneficial to see your insecurities, because those pockets of weakness inside yourself need some serious attention.  So you decide to be compassionate toward yourself and to not make any sudden decisions or changes.  There’s something brewing within.  You know it.  And because of this moment of terror, and facing the terror (rather than pretending it didn’t happen), you grow.  You grow stronger, wiser, a little more in tune with yourself.  You become a little more rooted in who you are, because you didn’t sway in the moment of confusion.  You just stood there and allowed it to sweep over you, like an oak tree standing tall and strong in a winter wind.  Some old branches got blown off, and you feel a little bit bare, but you’re still standing there.  Those old branches and leaves aren’t who you are.  They’re simply images that deflect the whole of you.  They often hide you, even from yourself, but when they get swept away unexpectedly, you get a good look at yourself, which is so beneficial, because you’re bigger and stronger than those parts of yourself that wither and die (the images).  You’re something of greater value, and though you can’t put your finger on what that is, (because it’s impossible to identify something so empty of identification) you know it’s significant and that you should spend more energy on that part of you, which is always growing and becoming stronger.  It’s beyond the illusions you put out to the world to help you fit in.  I think it’s good to know that you don’t always fit in, because it reminds you to root yourself into the ground, rather than showing off your leaves.

Artists are faced with doubt more than the average person because many of them are placing themselves out for scrutiny.  Opinions of other people about your work is so subjective, so it’s important to have a vision for where you’re headed and to not get lost in the maze of other people’s standards.  This applies in life as well.  I may work a menial job, which will be judge by certain individuals who have secured themselves a fabulous career, but I also know that it’s incredibly temporary.  I work the job to pay the bills.  My vision for my life goes way beyond the office.  So I can’t get caught up in the disapproval of other people.  Comparing our artwork to artists in a different genre, is foolish.  I mean, I get scoffed at once in a while by literary snobs who don’t think what I write is “real” writing, but half of them haven’t written a fraction of what I’ve written (I’ve prudently observed).  At least I’m putting my work out there, rather than just standing around and talking about my ideas for the book that I haven’t written yet, or making excuses for why I haven’t written anything.  I’m getting better each time I complete a manuscript.  Anyone who’s completed writing a book, knows the struggles, dedication, and hard work it takes to actually finish the job.  Those who have done it usually respect anyone who at least finishes writing a book, no matter the subject.  It’s admirable in any case, especially because you’re basically standing there naked for the world to see you (if they are that interested)… and that takes guts.  I think standing there with your guts hanging out says more about you than your artwork.  Your artwork is the leaves.   Your courage is the tree.

To actually stand there and have the courage to admit that you may suck, yet not giving up in the face of defeat, is like rooting yourself into the ground, shedding old leaves and spreading your branches out toward the sun a little bit farther.  When you are faced with these uncomfortable adversities, you’re challenged enough to keep becoming who you are deep down inside, rather than shallowly striving to be like everyone else.  Good for you.  You only spend moments with other people.  You spend a lifetime with yourself, so don’t let the world sway you.  When you feel shaken, root yourself in deeper, stand taller and let go of those leaves that no longer suit you.  Ask yourself if you’re missing something that you may want to work on from here on out.  Trust in the process of feeling confused and insecure once in a while.  That confusion and insecurity is giving you a good opportunity to look at yourself, and to recall your vision, and to see if you’re on track.  I think it’s good to remind ourselves that everyone feels insecure once in a while, but those who are great, strive not for greatness, but to merely be themselves.