“But the simple truth is always the best”

-Shawn Colvin

“The Facts About Jimmy”

Monday, May 9, 2016 5:03 am

Thousand Oaks, California

Recovery isn’t pretty.

At least not all the time.

And while my last few posts have touched upon that, alluded to the unlovely and messy nature of The Hateful Eight, I haven’t gone too far into the deep end of the pool.

It’s a Monday ass crack of dawn morning and I find myself where I usually am in these cherished and ridiculously early hours, having assumed The Position. On my terrace, in leggings, The Dude’s double-thick hiking socks and my 30 year-old CSUN sweatshirt (I, like the trampy lady in the song, hate California, it’s cold and it’s damp), freshly brewed and steaming mug of coffee in one hand, a pack of Skinny Ginny’s on deck ( Virginia Slims. Yes. I smoke. Don’t hate. Or hate. Like you’re going to listen to me one way or the other.) I really love the cup my coffee is in this morning. It’s in a mug Schwink made for me at a surprise party she gave for my 40th birthday at a local pottery making studio. I thought we were going out for dinner and shopping at The Grove with a group of friends, so to find myself up to my elbows in wet, gloppy clay, doing summer-camp arts and crafts in my best cardigan, nails freshly manicured, lipsticked, my hair done and dreams of pasta a la Carbonaro and Nordstrom was indeed a…surprise! A truly fun, hilarious and memorable surprise. One of the best. Schwink’s been responsible for a lot of those in the century (plus 17 years) that we’ve been blessed with being best friends.

So here I am, on the terrace. I spend a lot of time out here. So much so that I call  it my room.

It’s the first space I claimed as my own when I moved in here three years ago, when the place was a sunny, spacious Man Cave The Dude shared with his two teenage sons, along with a freakish amount of computers, monitors, keyboards, mice (computer not rodent), wires, speakers and other electronic equipment. And some potato chips, a jar of peanut butter and a lot of parmesan cheese.

Between 2005 and 2013, I’d had a townhouse and three apartments which I was unable to hold onto and a fairly disastrous eight months wearing nothing but ballet flats due to moving in with a diminutive boyfriend a full 2 inches shorter than I (petite to begin with), who also happened to be angry, mean, old-lady fussy about his stuff and, oh yeah, a physically and verbally abusive tiny little Italian bully on lived on the desolate outskirts of the methamphetamine capital of the world.

I gotta stop here.

Maybe you can help me out because I just don’t get me sometimes.

I  don’t get why the excellent taste that I inherited from my mother’s side of the family somehow did not translate to men. And I’m not the only woman to be so accursed. There are ladies, such as myself, who are gifted with the ability to walk into Saks Fifth Avenue, on any given day, and, blindfolded and gloved and select the most expensive item in the store. And yet, when it comes to men?  We charge the cheap seats. Every time. And, more often than not, our guy is the first beer-swilling, Neanderthal sporting a wife beater, Levis and construction boots that we lock eyes with.

This I do not understand.

And neither does anyone else who has suffered through my taste and selection of mates. (Present selection excepted, darling.)

Since 2005,  I had changed my address so many times, that by 2010,  I was no longer receiving mail. My theory is that whenever a United States Postal Service worker sorting mail came to an envelope with my name on it, they just rolled their eyes and threw it in the trash. 2010 and 2013 were the worst as far as my living situation was concerned.  Desperate, degrading and nightmarish short stays with the most current ex-husband and graceful reprieves in Schwink’s guest room were kinda how it went for those three years.  It must be noted that I am not the only occupant of said guestroom, as my best friend has a big and beautiful heart, two sizes two large (I’m not joking. It’s a documented, medical fact.) There’s a soft spot in that heart earmarked especially for strays. Which is why her house shall one day bear a lovely bronze plaque engraved with the words: “Schwink’s Home for The Residentially Challenged” (Even international people have found shelter there.).

All of this running and rootlessness ultimately lead to three years of very disorienting, deeply distressing and shameful and embarrassing homelessness, which I told no one about.I didn’t even realize this awful truth myself, believe it or not, until several years later. What I did know, however, what was very clear at the time, was this: had it not been for Schwink and her enlarged heart, I would have had to have slept in my car.

I was a month and a half sober when I came to stay with The Dude, on a we’ll-see-how this-goes-basis in April of 2013. I staked my claim on the sunniest, warmest patch I could find, which was the terrace, because at 98 pounds and mostly dead from alcoholism and the cumulative effect of The Hateful Eight (but mostly from alcoholism), the only thing I felt was fucking freezing. Despite the balmy Spring weather, I could not get warm. My nose felt so cold and it ran constantly. My feet and my hand were icy. I wore knit hats, socks, leggings and The Dude’s bulky sweaters over long-sleeved thermal t-shirts. I made the terrace my own with furniture I scavenged from The Dude’s apartment ( a butter yellow wicker writing desk, a glass table, chairs), my Lucky Lamp, stacks of books (my Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and The Twelve and Twelve, my Bible, my daily inspirationals), framed pictures of The Dude and I and of my kids, throw pillows, a small fleece blanket, a space heater The Dude had bought me at Goodwill (which I unplugged and carried from room to room with me), a Harley-Davidson coffee mug filled with pens and pencils, a stack of black and white speckled composition books for writing, a heart shaped rock I’d found on a hike and an old crystal tea cup for an ashtray.

And then, I just sat there.

And smoked and stared into the empty space where my life used to be and felt absolutely nothing. Not only had the kids left the nest, they had, one by one, left my life entirely. Along with every other beloved and loved, trusted, cherished and adored family member and friend. With the exception of Schwink and The Dude. I knew why my kids were gone from the nest,  but I couldn’t understand why they had left me, at a time when the love and the tolerance and the acceptance that I had bathed them and others in our lives in, modeled for them as a way of being for their entire lives, was not available from them to me.

I felt two things I had never felt before, ever, in my entire 49 years. I felt loneliness and aloneness and it was devastating. I had been widowed at 30 after a year of marriage. My husband had died in my arms after a very short but very horrifying pancreatic cancer and that had been devastating, too. But nothing at all like the baffling, punishing loneliness and abandonment of my immediate family that I experienced that Spring.

That devastation, like my husband’s death, changed me forever. Not even in the bank of fog that was settling over me and would envelop me for another three years, the result of no longer being anesthetized by the drinking or the running or the running and the drinking, by the alcohol I’d been sure wasn’t a problem (until it was the single biggest problem I had, obliterating all the other problems I had, including the ones the alcohol itself created) could take the edge off of that devestation.

Or the remorse and the regret and the shame and the humiliation and the guilt any less searing and unbearable. Or the disconnect that made the days go on relentlessly or the hopelessness that made sleep impossible so that nights went on for dark forevers.

We’re in the deep end now.

We’re at the far side of town, where the lots become vacant, packed hard with dun colored dirt and raggedy weeds and where there are tiny slivers of paint lying in little mounds along the dry, splintering fence, where what’s left of the last fresh coat of paint is curling off and the wood is streaky and weather-beaten. I’m ok being here, walking along this old faded, beat up fence, in this nasty part of town.

Just know I’m not staying long and I’m not whitewashing the fence, either.

My recovery as a wife and mother, from that first glimpse of my emptying nest in 2005, when my former husband made it impossible for me to choose to stay in a marriage he had destroyed by failing to secure any sort of stability for our family and by being physically abusive with one of the kids, really began on March 1st, in 2013. That was the morning after I had my last drink following a seven-year run of drinking and hiding and lying about  it.

It isn’t any coincidence that I began drinking in the Summer of 2006, a year after I left that mangled marriage. Even though I was approaching ten years of sobriety,  I was full of the two things an alcoholic should never be full of, other than alcohol; anger and resentment. I was already going down because my gig as wife and mother was ending, adding alcohol just lit the train wreck in flames that, for the next 7 years,  burned everyone and everything in it’s path.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t,  leave the apartment alone. The Dude took me everywhere, which was only three places: Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings, to meet with my sponsor and to go to church. In between, I worked The Twelve Steps of AA, in order, starting with the first step. And then very slowly, I worked the second, then the third.

It was taking the fourth step that ignited the writing-which I’m still doing to this day, to this moment.

I wrote my fourth step with a pen, paper and the truth.

For me, anything less, or more, might have lead me to a whitewashed revisionist history.

Which would not have been the truth

There’s been enough of that sort of thing.

I think there’s a reason why true recovery from anything, whether it’s alcohol or being a wife and a mother, isn’t pretty and that reason is this: because the truth can be a very ugly thing to look at.

I think that’s why I lied for so long to so many about so much.

Because there were a lot of ugly truths in my life that I didn’t want to look at.

In my writing-prolific, endless, compelled, writing- I found a way to feel again and then, once I could feel, I wanted to face the truth of those eight years, once and for all. And after that didn’t kill me like I was sure it would, it filled me with a calm and a peace and a freedom and a purpose and there’s beginning to be a meaning to it that I’m discovering that inspires me to keep writing.

Ironically, for me it wasn’t the truth that was scary, it was the fear of facing the truth that made the truth so frightening.

As a recovering wife and mother, as well as a recovering alcoholic, writing my experiences of the past eight years, believing that the simple truth is always the best has evolved into meaning, above all, not whitewashing the truth. As a result, pearls are being harvested each day. Strong tiny orbs of pure and unvarnished reality that I have gleaned from looking at and learning some hard facts about me, my life and the people in it during one of the most difficult, heartbreaking, transformative periods I’ve been through in this life. They stand alone, these perfect spheres, but when strung together, they are the simple truths of this life I have to make.




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