Born – Place of birth unknown. Biological mother abandoned my brother and I, we were put into a children’s home. December 8th, 1966 – fake birth certificate.
They make up a birthday for you. I celebrate my belly button birthday and my sobriety birthday on the same day. It has more significance: July 4th, 1985. Permanent address: Reno, Nevada. Looking at myself in the mirror and seeing this really awful hideous sort of monster.
I grew up in a very troubled home. I was put into a foster home with both alcoholic parents. It was a real turbulent and sort of disturbing childhood. We learned how to deal with our problems was by blotting it out with chemi-cals, violence, and running away. I don’t like to say I had any other course to choose but to become an addict.
When I was 11, I developed an auto-immune disease and I was put on some pretty serious medication that I soon became severely dependent on. I was like this perfectionist little kid trying to do everything right or do everything perfectly, not wanting to accept the reality of my physical disease.
So I started taking a lot of painkillers to sort of cope with not having to look at my physical pain and then later also with my emotional pain; all those feelings of like non-acceptance and stuff when you’re that gangly age in junior high school. I was an 11 year old brain popping pills.
When I was 12, I skipped a couple of grades, deciding that was the perfect thing to do because I was going to be the star of the family. I started drinking alcohol in high school, something I said I would never do because I would never want to be like my parents. Drinking just got completely out of hand. I discovered I was now also addicted to alcohol at the age of 13.
I was trying to be an honor student and an alcoholic at the same time and the two don’t mix. When I was 15, through a course of events that were real uncontrollable at home I decided to chase the bright lights of the city and I like dropped out of school and gave up a rather brilliant school career as I already knew I was in line for some scholarships.
Lived in San Francisco for a year on the streets where I learned everything there is to know about panhandling, eating out of garbage cans, finding out what it truly meant to be poverty stricken. At that time I came into contact with some great drugs and the psychedelic era. I thought at the time I was living at peace with myself but in reality it was just sort of I had one set of clothes: a blanket. This was going to be my existence.
I was real sad. I didn’t think it was sad. There was some pretty heavy stuff going on in our squat and I lost a lot of friends through the disease. It was the scene you know, the hard core scene, the San Francisco hard core scene, which never wasn’t much of a scene.
I knew coming back to Reno, scamping around, was going to be easy no matter what you’re doing. Got into real heavy, a lot of methamphetamine, free basing, intravenous drugs and heroin, and thinking there was absolutely nothing wrong with my behavior, that it was just totally acceptable. I had never been told any reason or learned why mind-altering drugs shouldn’t be used in excess. I got busted for some major grand thefts and ended up on probation and a number of different sort of wrist-slapping little details.
At sixteen I had a nervous breakdown. I found out what they meant by D.T.s. I thought people were like mowing the lawn in my room and stuff. It was really wonderful.
As soon as I got back on my feet I left home again and I just wandered around. There is a space in my life for about two years that I have just about no recollection of whatsoever, from about 16 until 18 — I know I was sort of doing this and that and I was sort of here and there, but I was just full tilt into my disease. My life was living the disease. My life was just living the drugs. It was total desolation in all ways.
When I was 18 I met up with Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Right Now, and I liked him because he had all the good drugs and he had more than anybody else. He was the obvious choice to be hooked up with. He enabled me in every possible way that another human being can enable another one. I did everything just to get my supply, I completely prostituted myself to have a constant supply of drugs. On June 29th, 1985, I was going clubbing at the Lake Tahoe doing all this stuff and just taking everything we could get our hands on. I drove down from the Lake in a total blackout, getting down to Reno at eight in the morning.
Like snapping out of it all of a sudden, like waking up almost, like looking at myself in the mirror and seeing this really awful hideous sort of monster in the mirror. All the little social trappings of clothing and make-up and thinking that you know at those moments of clarity where I had been thinking that I was a real person and looked in the mirror and didn’t see anything but just a shadow of something that could have been and never was going to be.
It was real early in the morning. It was like a Saturday morning. I could hear these kids playing outside of my bedroom window and running around sort of being joyous and free the way children are and then looking at myself and thinking, “Oh my God, my life’s been an entire waste. I haven’t done anything.” I said, “That’s it. That is it. I can’t do anything, go anywhere.” I was ready to give up. I took bottles and bottles and bottles of pills that had been around the house. I just grabbed everything I could get my hands on. I washed it down with a fifth of tequila and said, “Well, this is it! It’s checkout time!”
I drove over to an apartment that my boyfriend had been dealing drugs out of because he didn’t want to deal drugs out of our house. He very quickly realized that I was OD-ing on drugs. He said, “Well, you’re not dying in my house, so I don’t want the police coming around asking questions.” He took me and put me in my car and turned on the engine and left me there to die.
Someone found me, which I later learned was a member of a group of recovering addicts, found me in the parking lot and drove me to the hospital. I wandered into the hospital and fell unconscious at the emergency desk, at which point I was jumped upon be a team of medics. I had like a total cardiac arrest and my heart stopped, you know, they were trying to pump my stomach and get my heart started all at the same time. I was clinically dead for a number of minutes. They like jump-started my heart with electric paddles.
So I was real lucky, I guess, because I lived. I was in a coma for a couple of days. I woke up a couple of days later and just totally in shock that I was still alive. At that point a psychiatrist that I had been seeing came in and said, “You have a choice: you can either go to treatment or be committed to treatment.” And I went in and did my little thing, thinking I was going to be on vacation, like a little country club type thing. I had no intention of staying clean. I just wanted to escape.
I don’t know. All of a sudden on day something just clicked in my head and I said, “Geez, you know what? You’ve like wasted you entire life, and maybe it’s time to do something, change something, have a future.” So I started to get serious. I started listening to things at meetings. I started to experience strength and hope.
And decided that I was going to try to stay clean for a while, that I was going to try to make amends for some of my past. Did a lot of things that they tell you not to do, of course, because I had to find out for myself. Really seriously started looking into where I had come from and why. What I was going to do now. I set a goal that I was going to stay clean for a year. At the end of the year so many things had changed. I had actually gone out for the first time and gotten a real job.
And I went from being a snivelling little sort of street broad to being an insurance executive. Started doing things with my life. Started picking up the pieces, started figuring out where I’ve been, putting my head back together dealing with the way I grew up, the choices that I have made.
I had a lot of awakenings as to the reasons for my behaviors and the fact that I couldn’t deal with life on life’s terms. I’ve started learning how to live in the world as a human being, as somebody that has feelings, as somebody that can actually think with my brain rather than a chemical doing my thinking for me.
On my three year birthday this year, it was really wonderful. Just when you think everything is lost, it seems something new is around the corner or something new to find — sort of that. It’s always darkest just before the dawn because I got a feeling of what the hell am I thinking about using again when I have this much support and love out-pouring from the people in my life? How dare I go out there and kill myself with drugs? I believe that if I go out and use again it would be a complete rerun, back to the day before I got clean. The day before I got clean was the day I almost died, so I know I don’t have any using left. My three year birthday was the fourth of July, 1988.
Maybe there is one person out there that shares my story, that knows what it’s like to be an avant-garde addict, an addict searching for some sort of timeless time, some sort of suspension in like nothing, a spiritual outcast. But I’m having fun. It’s a great experience.
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