DOB: 11/7/63; Brooklyn, New York. Yeah, you’re not going to be using when you’re twenty-five because you’re not going to be here.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Neither of my parents are alcoholic. My mother’s side of the family has like a history of alcoholism that goes way back. My father’s side of the family — they’re like East Coast Jewish, so there is no history of alcoholism or any kind of chemical dependency in that family.
But as far as I know it was a real dysfunctional family, my father’s family, a lot of neglect and physical and emotional abuse.
So I was born there with them and it was like I had one strike against me when I was born sort of already. I was supposed to be like this son, this prodigal son or something, and I wasn’t. I was okay, I guess. Like there was always this feeling of non-acceptance of me on the part of my father. He like wanted me to be an artist. He is an artist.
And wanted me to play ball — he was a ballplayer. Nothing I ever did was okay with him. It’s kind of like how I felt from the time I was small.
And then my sister was born and he was hoping for a boy, so naturally it kind of set the tone for the family environment, sort of non-acceptance. And I always kind of felt less than as a little kid and I felt different than all my friends, all that kind of thing.
And my mother and father were finally divorced after a period of separation, for like a summer, when I was six. We moved to Richmond, Virginia, to live with my uncle, who at the time was in fact an alcoholic, and living in that home was a lot better than living with my father. And he came down and he kidnapped us, and mother followed shortly there¬after to get us back. She sort of went along with this reconciliation.
But all the while I guess she had this plan to like escape, which we did. We moved — my mother, my sister and myself — to Minnesota, to live with her mother, and three of her seven sisters and brothers were living at home at that time. I started to become one of those troubled kids, and I was in and out of human development centers and psychoanalysts’ offices and all of that kind of stuff, because of my acting out behavior. And I always felt real responsible for my mother’s and sister’s well being, so I sort of vacillated between being this responsible caretaker and then this belligerent sort of rebel.
And when I was nine, my mother met my stepfather, met a guy who soon was to become my stepfather, and they married. And I remember having a feeling of real relief that somebody was going to take care of us, somebody nice, somebody that liked us. And they were married and we all four lived together for three years and moved into the suburbs and had a nice house and puppy and all that stuff. And my father was taken from us in a motorcycle accident. I considered him to be my father. All alone kind of.
So then I started to feel real responsible for my mother and sister again, and how was I going to make everything okay? And at that point I started smoking dope and using alcohol and that was kind of an answer to all my problems. It worked really good at the time and it was fun, and the first time I got loaded I got real sick but I couldn’t wait to do it again. And I went through junior high school just loaded all the time.
And my mother decided that we couldn’t stay in Minnesota any longer because of her memories about my stepfather and everything. So she was driving through California to San Francisco to see my uncle — the one that we lived with earlier — and she went through Truckee and my family liked to ski, so we decided to move there.
By this time I was already a total rebel and that kind of stuff. And Mom was like a pretty emotionally available person. But it seems to me that some of the stuff that I had chosen as my behavior had already been like developed at the time. And when I started high school — I went from junior high school into high school — I decided that I was going to keep partying. And the kids that I decided to hang out with were like the stoners and stuff, and I started to use about anything I could get my hands on.
And that’s how I went through my freshman and part of my sophomore year in high school, until I met through a girlfriend this guy who was twenty one, who was a farmer. And I had run away before. I went to Chico and checked all over, and I can only think that it’s by God’s grace that I was saved. Because I was in a lot of pretty horrendous situations. Because I was on the road and stuff.
But my Mom — after I met my boyfriend — I decided that I wanted to move to Oregon, to be a farmer’s wife. So she let me go, because she didn’t want me to run away. So I went up there and we never got along — my boyfriend and I — because of this sort of wild kid that he had to take care of.
At one point there was a graduation party for some of the kids that were in school up there, and I was invited to go, and he was running the skidder up in the hills. So I decided that I was going to go do that. This wild girl came over, we went to this party, and we decided that we were going to go down the road to get some pot from some relatives of hers. And she was fucking around on the road driving and we went off the road and hit like a pasture and on impact I broke my back.
And although I think that I was an active addict, pretty much in my disease, before that time, it seemed that that really helped it to progress a lot faster, because I was medicated. I remember jonesing in the hospital, and hallucinating, and all kinds of stuff, on and off, because they had taken me off the morphine and I would complain that they weren’t giving me enough.
So after a period of being in a regular hospital, in an ICU unit, I went into a physical rehabilitation center, and I learned to take care of my body — my new body. That was real painful for me at the time, but I didn’t know it, because as soon as I got out — I was in a wheelchair like a week before I got out — and I just decided this is something like all these negative things that people think about, you know, having a hard life and being an addict and all that stuff.
I tend to think that some of those liabilities can turn into assets, because I became a real survivor in the hospital, and I decided that I wasn’t gonna leave that place with a wheelchair, so I just worked real hard. I left with like crutches and leg braces, back brace, and looked like what people on the street would call a cripple or a handicapped person. And so when I went back to my hometown I set out to prove to all my friends that I was just the same as I was before. In doing so and in hiding my pain, I just drank and drank, and I was going to drink everybody under the table. And I was going to do more drugs and be crazier than anybody else.
And so I did that for like a period of five years. And for a long time I mostly drank and just used other drugs occasionally, like they weren’t really my obsession, until I was about seventeen, and I started using a lot of methamphetamines. I never liked any kind of speed when I was younger because I couldn’t get drunk enough. But then I started using meth and I liked that.
I moved in with my dealer and we were together for a year and a half and it was a real violent relationship. And it was a time — when I look back on it it’s real frightening to me, it’s like opening the door to a real scary place. Because the fact that I was so strung out and so deluded that I couldn’t differentiate between what was real and what wasn’t real, even with my feelings, and so I suffered an emotional collapse.
I think it was on maybe my nineteenth birthday or something, and I hurt myself, and I hurt the people in my house physically. They went and got my mother, who lived down the road, and she woke me up like over a seventy-two-hour period, and I talked my way out of it.
I finally got rid of that boyfriend and I thought that I had gotten rid of all my problems. And I had been in a series of different relationships that all seemed different but they were all real similar. When I got rid of this boyfriend, I got a roommate. I tried some controlled using of, like cocaine and stuff, because it wasn’t like using crack and it wasn’t like using meth.
But I discovered shortly after that — trying to use cocaine socially — that using cocaine wasn’t like it used to be when I was younger, because of the pattern that I had developed with using meth. I couldn’t sleep on coke or anything. And I would usually end up buying large, large quantities to sell and then not sell any.
So after like a year’s time, after like this breakup in September of ’83, I just went through all kinds of stuff, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. And I just kind of thought that I was crazy, and tried to go to cosmetology school, and I could never make it to school. I was never going to graduate. I was like on the ten-year plan.
And my Mom got real sick in June of ’84, and she called me, she needed my help, and I had been up all night on a bender, and she called me and needed help and I couldn’t help her, and I felt real guilty about that because she had been there for me when I was sick in the hospital. So I started to sort of introspect and like notice also when I was trying not to use drugs that I was involved in another facet of my disease, which was like binging when I was not using. I was eating and throwing up.
So I started to feel like — shit, there is something wrong with me. And when I was seventeen I was sitting with a girlfriend and this guy that I had moved in with and we were smoking free base and I said to them: “You know, by the time that I am twenty-five I am going to quit all this. I am going to quit partying.” And I really didn’t know what that meant, and I just knew that like someday I wanted to have children and I wanted to like have sort of a regular life that didn’t feel so crazy.
And so I just said that, a little matter of fact, and just before my Mom was sick — I was twenty — I remembered that night sitting there, because I had just gone through a night that was real similar, and I remembered saying that, and it just came to me: “Yeah, you’re not going to be using when you’re twenty-five because you’re not going to be here.”
I just — it doesn’t even sound adequate in my description of it — it was something that I felt, and I got real terrified, and it was like right then when I think I asked God real sincerely. I had made bargains with God before after all nighters, but I really sincerely wanted to stop being crazy. So I got down on my knees and I asked God to relieve me of all the pain.
And it was like I think about four months after that my Mom got sick, and I realized that there was something really wrong with me. And I went to Minnesota with my Mom. She had to go to a seizure control center in St. Paul, and I went with her, and I was trying to take care of her. And the thing that is strange about it is that she was toxic on the drugs she used to control the seizures, so she was like detoxing.
And I was trying to explain to her that I had realized that there was something that was wrong with me, and she said to me kind of she was in a stupor almost — she said: “You have to do something. You have to promise me that you will seek help, that you will go into treatment,” or something like that. But we didn’t really know what that meant, but it sounded real good.
I was in Minnesota with her for three weeks and I behaved myself rather well, you know, being with all my hard-core friends in Minneapolis and stuff. And I didn’t get loaded really, and I didn’t blow it until the last night.
I went up to Duluth with some friends of mine and I went to a bar and I was flying out the next day and I went to a bar with them and I didn’t plan to get drunk. I just kept slamming whiskey, I just kept drinking whiskey, and this was the deal my Mom said to me. We had this rental car and she said: “Yeah, you can take the car as long as you promise not to drink.”
And I promised her and it was the only time I used the car and it was the only time that I got so drunk that I couldn’t see straight. And I came back to the place that we. were staying that night and I got sick all over her floor, my Mom was crying, and I was just laying in my own stench, and she just looked at me and said: “I’m really glad that you’re going into treatment.” Because I had already promised her that I would.
So I left Minnesota. I came back to Truckee. I spent like a month of sort of like free time. My Mom was gone and we didn’t live together or anything, but she lived nearby. So I always kind of monitored my use around her or whatever I was using at the time, you know.
I could always, well, maintain enough to be around her. But that one time that I came back with the car, it was just like the final thing. I was just obvious. So I spent a month just using, drinking anything I could get my hands on, and I went treatment center shopping. I was like a real responsible treatment center shopper. I went to all these places and I talked with the directors. I wanted to know what treatment was about and all this stuff.
I went to a program in Sacramento on a real hot day, and went in there and I talked to the program director, who is my boss now, but I talked to him and I said “Well, I am going to come to treatment, but I have got to go to the Truckee Rodeo first, and I have got tickets to Billy Idol and the Pretenders concert, so I’ll be back on September 3rd.” He said: “No, I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want you out on the streets.” I said: “Don’t worry, there’s no streets out in Truckee. There’s just roads and stuff.”
I went back and I just — I wanted to kind of prove to myself that what I was doing really needed to be done. So that’s what I set out to do. Anyhow, I went into treatment after Labor Day weekend and I was real willing from the very beginning. And I don’t know why that was. I was real willing I was probably one of those people that counselors thought, “God, she is never going to make it. She is such a people pleaser. She is so compliant.”
But I really did have my heart into it. I did want to be better. I mean, maybe my using didn’t look like everybody else’s, or maybe I was like the perennial cheerleader. I don’t know. I was just like a party girl. Nobody thought that too much, I mean I looked like everybody else. I drank and used just like everybody else pretty much, but the emotional and psychic pain that I experienced was enough for me till I wanted to get better.
So I was in treatment for twenty eight days. I got turned out with flying colors. I went into a recovery home. I was there for forty days and I was reprimanded time and time again for being irresponsible. And it was like my main problem at the time. I could never stick to anything and they were concerned about that. And I moved back into my trailer in Truckee and I continued to stay clean and I went to meetings all the time and I did everything that I was told, because I was afraid of experiencing the same kind of internal crisis that I had experienced for so many years. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.
So I did everything that I was supposed to do. And I was fortunate enough to have people with a lot of recovery around me, people that put me to work. They sort of inducted me into service positions — that kind of thing — and I did a lot of volunteer work and I worked at my old high school with some of the kids.
At the time I went into treatment I was seeing someone who was also an addict and he has been abstinent the same length of time almost that I have been clean. And we’re not together any more, but we were together, and we have a little girl, and he and I, by the grace of God, we have a healthy relationship today, and we get along all right, and we are good parents to our little girl.
But the break-up that I experienced with him was like one of the hardest things that I have had to do since I’ve been clean. And when I did that I started having to look at myself and really think about what recovery meant to me. I just kind of went along for a long time, just knowing that it was just better. That’s all that I knew and I hadn’t made really any decisions.
But it wasn’t until almost a . . . like a year and a half, two years ago, that I really started to have a feeling of being real connected with the people that I have met in recovery, and the connection with my Higher Power, and I ran into people that were sort of like my spiritual advisors during that time.
I spent time at this spiritual community and just kind of checked out stuff about God, because it was God, as I didn’t understand Him and I don’t think it’s that important to understand it completely but to just have a feeling. Because to me faith is like a feeling.
I don’t really have a description for it. And it’s like today I really know that I will be taken care of, because I have been able to experience some of that since I have been clean. Just really trusting and having faith, because that’s all I know.
I don’t know how to cope very well. Life on my terms doesn’t work very well. So it’s just been slowly, slowly. It was at first. I just knew that being clean was better. And then realizing that being powerless was better.
But the things that have happened to me since I have been clean I can’t find a better explanation for than the fact that I am really powerless over so many things and I feel real grateful to have gone through everything that I have gone through. And I just try to be the best person that I can be and apply everything that I have learned in recovery to every area of my life, because you know it makes my existence so much easier.
I don’t believe in coincidence today. I really have an acceptance of the things that are sort of unseen, something that I just feel inside. And sometimes I meet people that I can share that feeling with and there is nothing that compares to that. And I found those people in recovery. Today is my birthday, the third of September. I have four years clean.
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