You Can't Buy Butterflies

The unkindness of cats

Slimmy

This is Slim Kitteh the Real Kitteh. We’ll call him Slim, for short.

He also goes by Boo.

Although Slim looks like a regular cat, he eschews customary cat-quirks including snuggling, purring and gently sprawling on luxurious cat-furniture made solely for his comfort and enjoyment. Instead, Slim opts for biting, barfing, licking plastic bags, chewing rubber and digging in his litter box.

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He seems to enjoy ingesting his own fur. Hence the barfing.

He also enjoys high-volume meowing. All the time.

Slim looks cute and innocent but one must never be fooled by his beguiling appearance. It is a farce.

He may, in fact, be Satan.

His body is an intricate maze of hazardous areas, hidden within the depths of his enticing, silky-soft fur. Like a series of landmines in a warzone, you never know when a furious explosion of tooth-and-claw shrapnel will hit. There are many inconsistencies spread across his perilous orange landscape. Just because an area is safe today does not mean it will be so tomorrow. Caution must always abound, as he revels in the spontaneity of the clever ambush.

slim

No amount of prescription medication can subdue his primal urge to kill and maim.

His entire fluffy body is a breeding-ground of deception.

His velvety-soft fur is filled with lies. And possibly bees.

Slim will, at times, attempt to present himself as an affable, cuddly cat. These moments are very rare and should be treasured, however one must never let down their guard. He has an uncanny ability to coax a person into believing that he’s changed, however, he has not. He greedily seeks to cajole and lull, seeming to solicit pets along his delightfully plush epidermis.

Slim in bed

Like a victim of domestic abuse, one desperately wants to believe he is transformed.

He is cunning and strategic. He might even purr.

But his purr is merely a tactical decoy as he ponders his next vicious, bloody attack.

Bribery fails with Slim.

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At times, he feigns an addiction to his catnip banana, as if to garner sympathy or portray weakness.

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It is yet another farce.

This is Slim’s cat-tower. It has been available for Slim’s use since January of 2016. It is old and has barf-stains on it. Slim hates it. Cat-towers mean nothing to Slim. It is simply another object to gaze upon with pitiful disdain. For over 18 months, he has categorically refused to lay upon either of its spacious platforms during his frequent periods of repose.

Old tower

He likes this weight bench though.

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This is Slim’s new cat-tower. It is beautiful and brand new. It sparkles and is fresh, with no puke stains or remnant germs from other cats. Upon its arrival, Slim performed a thorough investigation.

Tower nice

He sniffed, climbed, touched and sniffed some more. He perused its plush carpet surfaces with seeming intrigue and delight. He sought the enclosed upper platform, performing additional investigation of its secluded region. He climbed down and sniffed around the base some more.

InvestigationsInvestigations 2

The investigation was concluded. His judgement was swift and harsh. The lovely new tower was deemed…

Unworthy.

In fact, the beautiful hand-crafted cat-tower was so reprehensibly unbefitting of his fluffy orange cat-parts, that the old, barf-stained cat-tower held sudden new appeal and fascination. And then, almost as if he was lifting his middle claws and saying, “SCREW YOU NEW TOWER, BEHOLD MY HATRED FOR YOU,” he abruptly commenced with sprawling on the old cat-tower.

Old tower with Slim

He has henceforth sprawled there on more than one occasion.

Slim on tower

Cats.

The end.

The perils of the Seattle music scene

It never fails.

Every single time I tell somebody how much clean time I have, I automatically diminish the accomplishment by saying, “I should have more but…” I’ve gotten to the point where I can sometimes stop myself from saying it out loud, but I always think it. Today, Monday, June 26, 2017, is my five-year sober birthday, and that voice is still there, obnoxiously pointing out that I should have 13 years.

But I don’t, because I relapsed at year six.

Here’s the tricky thing about addiction. It doesn’t matter how much clean time you manage to accumulate; your future sobriety is never guaranteed.

I was forced into sobriety in November of 2004 through incarceration. I was released from prison in 2005 and managed to stay clean – even when I had to return to prison in 2006 to complete my federal sentence. I celebrated my 18-month sober birthday at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. When I got out, I worked to build a regular, sober life. I got a job, a car and eventually, my own apartment. I went to a lot of AA meetings and associated, mostly, with folks I met through AA.

Until I was dumped by an AA guy in 2008. Right or wrong, that soured me on the program. My meeting attendance dwindled, although I did maintain consistent contact with my sponsor. I muddled through. I stayed sober. I told myself I’d never let myself fall for another man, ever again.

The point, really, is that it wasn’t the bad stuff that tripped me up. I made it through three solid years of federal probation, a traumatic breakup, two residential moves and a sudden job loss. Those incidents weren’t what took me down. It was love. That’s what took me down. It was the hope, excitement, promise and desperate uncertainty of new love. It was the butterflies.

It was really the butterflies that did it.

For me, happiness is treacherous. It needs to be tempered with grief.

Once I stopped going to meetings, my life got very small. I had one close friend, two if you count her husband, and she was really the only person I spent time with. When I moved from Madison Park to Capitol Hill in 2010, it was into an apartment located three or four doors down from hers.

But right before I moved, I discovered something I loved: live music.

It started with cover bands, like Platinum Spandex and my friend Kristin’s band, Rock Candy. Then I started checking out original bands, like Desillusion. I took social risks and met some new people, which is how I ended up in Pioneer Square on August 20, 2010, at Fuel, for an MS benefit. There were three bands playing that night, one of which was Late September Dogs (which conveniently shortens to LSD). The funny part, is that other than the fact that he played a pink Hello Kitty guitar, I didn’t even really notice Dan that first night.

For one thing, he ignored me. And another, his hair was all over his face so I couldn’t see what he looked like. I was with my friend Don, who knew the band, including the lead guitarist with the pink Hello Kitty guitar. He didn’t introduce me to him but he introduced me to Liz, Dan’s sister, who happened to be the lead singer. I loved the music and I loved Liz, so I went to another show.

And another one. And another one.

My thought process, as marred and erroneous as it was, was this: as a former heroin addict, being in bars is not an issue for me. Drinking alcohol was never really my thing, so what’s the big deal?

My second LSD show was on August 27, 2010, in south Seattle at a place called Club Motor. I went to that one by myself.

Dan ignored me at that show too.

His Facebook profile listed his favorite quote as; “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

I saw that as a challenge.

On Sept. 2, 2010, I hit up another LSD show with my friend Don. This one was acoustic, at a place called the Little Red Studio. Dan’s hair was back and I finally realized how good-looking he was. I kicked myself for coming to that show with Don, because I didn’t want to seem unavailable.

I started going to Fuel on Tuesdays, because LSD did acoustic nights every week back then.

The thing about Dan, is that he and Liz are kind of a package deal. And that was OK with me at the time. Sometimes I think it’s possible I may have fallen in love with Liz before I fell in love with Dan. I’m not sure though. Honestly, I can’t remember not loving him. It was intensely overwhelming. Still to this day, he is the best person I have ever known in my entire life.

He gave me butterflies in the worst way. I pursued him. My friend Kristin encouraged me to be brave. “You can’t buy butterflies,” she said.

He had to like me. If he didn’t like me I was going to die.

Exactly two weeks later, I decided to hit up a Witchburn show. It was an oddball Thursday night gig at the Funhouse, which was right by the Seattle Center. I had a personal training session in Ballard that evening, so I asked my parents if I could stop at their condo to take a shower and do my makeup. Their place is just a few blocks from where the show was, and I figured I could walk.

I made sure to put it out on social media that I was going to be at Witchburn that night. I knew Dan had Porn Jam practice, because I had stalked his Facebook page. I told myself that if he didn’t stop by Witchburn afterwards, he was definitely not into me.

He didn’t.

My solution was to completely lose myself in the music. That may have been my first Witchburn show, because I remember not knowing the words when Jamie launched into the chorus of “Stand up and be Counted,” leaning into the front row and holding out the microphone.

I fell head-over-heels in love with that band. I still love them. They are incredible. I enthusiastically embraced their entire set, headbanging, cheering and loving every minute of it.

The next night, Friday, September 17, I went to Fuel to see LSD again. And finally, Dan invited me to come to his house after the show. Which was amazing… Except… Something had started to go seriously awry with my neck. It hadn’t felt quite right all day, and then that night, I started experiencing strange prickly, shooting sensations that originated in my neck and traveled down my right arm.

It almost felt like I was being shocked by something… It felt like electrical charges. I began wondering if I was having a heart attack. I was thinking about how embarrassing it would be if I died at Dan’s house during our first night together. I mean, who does that?

It got progressively worse and then, the pain kicked in. It was excruciating. I drove myself to urgent care that weekend, to figure out what was going on. The doctor gave me Vicodin. I sat there and thought about all the things I was supposed to say and do in that moment, and I said and did none of them.

I was reinvented. I was into bands now. The guitar player I was obsessed with liked me. I was on the list.

I took the prescription. And I got it filled. And I took the pills.

The pain worsened dramatically over the next two weeks and I was given progressively stronger pain medication to deal with it. Sometime during the second week, I lost all strength in my right arm, and would collapse to the ground if I tried to do a pushup. I had to stop seeing my personal trainer. On Sept. 28, 2010, I had an MRI, which revealed two herniated discs in my neck.

The doctors speculated that the trauma was related to a car accident.

But I hadn’t been in a car accident. Headbanging, as it turns out, at the age of 40, is hazardous to your spinal region. I viciously herniated two discs in my neck by headbanging for an entire Witchburn set.

It really doesn’t get any more rock ‘n’ roll than that.

I fooled myself into believing that I wasn’t going to relapse. I was too smart to relapse. The pills were prescribed to me. By doctors. Until I started taking things that weren’t prescribed to me, like Xanax. And stronger opiates. I celebrated my six-year sober birthday on Nov. 17, 2010, but it was a lie. I had relapsed. I had lost my sobriety. My sponsor finally made me say the words out loud in December.

What followed was nearly two years of chipping, sneaking, lying, tapering, failing, chasing and nodding off in my beef stew. Dan was an innocent bystander in the turmoil that is me, caught in the throes of full-fledged addiction. On June 25, 2012, I was finally able to get a bed in detox. You can’t ever count the first day of rehab or detox as your clean date, as you always get loaded before you go.

That detox was hell. But necessary. I haven’t ingested opiates, benzos, alcohol, marijuana or any other controlled substances of any kind since June 26, 2012.

I know this for sure: I have zero detoxes left in me.

After detox, I attended 21-days of treatment at Sundown Ranch. It was also hell. But necessary. My parents paid for it out of their pocket, as I had no insurance.

My life isn’t fantastic. I don’t consider myself a happy person. The last two years have tested my limits as far as change and relationships coming to an end. Dan and I split up at the start of 2016, and although it was amicable, it still grieved me. He was and still is my best friend. I had hardly recovered from that when 2017 greeted me with a not-so-amicable split from the Monroe Monitor.

That did more than just grieve me. It infuriated me.

But I am sober and I am a good person and that’s better than the alternative.

Sobriety in and of itself doesn’t quell an addictive personality, but today I strive to be addicted to good things. In the last 18 months, I have dramatically improved my health through fitness and healthy food, staving off an intense addiction to sugar and binge-eating. I challenge myself physically every single day and try to inspire others to do the same.

I have five hard-fought years of sobriety, and while it’s too bad I don’t have 13, I need to finally let that go. And anyway, it doesn’t even matter. Five years, 13 years, six months; the time is of no consequence. I could use drugs tomorrow.

But I don’t think I will.

Failure to thrive

Almost 10 years ago, I got dumped. I had been seeing the guy for less than a year but I really thought I was in love with him. The “breakup,” if you want to call it that, was completely unexpected and poorly executed. It happened on a Sunday evening and I will never forget how shocked and hurt I felt in that moment.

It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t breathe or talk. I was devastated. I thought I was going to die.

I ran a small office in south Seattle at the time – it was just me and one other girl. I called her after it happened, because I didn’t know who else to tell. We had to work in the morning, and I knew I was going to be like the walking dead. I wanted her to know what happened before we got to work.

I wanted her to be prepared for the fact that I was wrecked.

I’ll never forget trying to sleep that Sunday night, and the feeling of sheer, unadulterated panic I felt the instant I opened my eyes in the morning. My heart hurt. It felt like there was a hurricane happening inside my chest. I had been sober for about 3-1/2 years at the time, and the feelings were unrelenting.

Sobriety, at times, can be a real bitch.

I arrived at work in a daze and climbed out of my car. As I approached the building, I dragged my feet like a reluctant child whose parents were forcing her to go to church on a sunny day.

I didn’t want to deal with people, I didn’t want to deal with my responsibilities. And I knew there would be boyfriend propaganda to deal with once I got to my desk.

There were silly “I heart” stickers with his picture on them. A friend of mine who worked at a printing company had made them for me. I dreaded looking at his face.

But my coworker, her name was Kayla, didn’t mess around. She had arrived at work early that day, so that she could remove any and all traces of him from my desk and surrounding workspace. It was all blissfully vanished before I even sat down with my cup of coffee. She did it silently, without seeking praise or gratitude in any way.

That’s a friend right there. I will never forget that she did that. Friends like that are rare.

I’ve been thinking about that all week, my memories spurred by something that happened on Monday morning. I arrived at my office, anxious to sit down and organize my priorities, as I had amassed a huge task list over the weekend and needed to get to work.

When I got to my desk, there was a copy of the Monroe Monitor resting on top of my keyboard. I’m sure it was placed there on the preceding Friday, which was a day off for me. There it sat, patiently waiting for me to discover it first thing Monday morning.

Really, really bad timing.

Here’s the thing. I am not OK with the Monroe Monitor, I will never be OK with the Monroe Monitor and I never want to be OK with the Monroe Monitor. I refuse to have anything to do with that repulsive “newspaper,” and will defy all orders to interact with it in any way. I’m not sure why leaving a copy of it on my desk seemed like an appropriate thing to do.

I gingerly picked it up with two fingers and threw it straight into the recycle bin.

This is what I’ve learned in the last six months: I am adamantly opposed to supporting that publication in any way. I didn’t know it was going to be like this, but it is, and I’m sick of feeling bad about it. I don’t need analogies, colloquialisms or metaphors about the risks of holding onto resentments. I’m an addict in recovery. I am well aware. Yes, I know about drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

I’ve heard that one. Probably around six thousand times.

Statements like that are not actually helpful when it comes to dealing with resentment. Words don’t vanish resentment. After six months of people telling me that I have to figure out how to let it go, I am no closer than I was in January, right after it happened. There is something about the sudden finality of being fired like that. It doesn’t compute. It’s like being unable to stop yourself from falling, headfirst, down the stairs. You have no command over gravity, you are stunned, and once you land, you are broken.

My firing was outlandishly unexpected and jarring to my psyche. Foolishly, I had believed that 2017 was going to be a better year in terms of work.

I was wrong.

Amid all the commonly-uttered catchphrases that people have offered for comfort and guidance, I have gleaned one useful thing regarding resentment. It was said during a chamber lunch. I feel sorry for the woman who said it, because she was stuck sitting next to me. I’m not fun to be around. And if the topic of the Monitor comes up, as it did that day, I’m less fun to be around.

She told me, “Sometimes, forgiveness looks like indifference.”

I liked that. I hadn’t heard that before. And hopefully, that will eventually be the case.

But right now, I’m just not there.

I question my decision to remain in the Sky Valley every single day. I had no idea it was going to be this harrowing. How could I have known? The only way to test it was to try it. As it turns out, my hatred and disgust for that publication has worsened, not eased, over time. And it continues to worsen. Every time I attempt to look up an old story, only to rediscover that all my work has been destroyed, it grows stronger.

Other than a handful of stories I asked my former editor to resurrect so that I could actually craft a decent resume, nothing I wrote prior to August of last year is available for viewing. My work has been destroyed by the revolting people tasked with managing that publication. It literally makes me sick.

Everything I joyfully celebrated, struggled with and toiled over since 2013 has been destroyed. All the stories I cried while writing, because I loved the people or the cause, are gone.

Trashed. Vanished.

When I am attacked by an angry resentment-holder, pissed off about something I wrote early last year or the year before, I am unable to defend my work. The distorted version that exists in their mind cannot be reconciled with what was actually written. I am unable to confront them with my written words and say to them, “Look. This is what I wrote. Don’t call me a bad journalist. I am not. Read what I wrote.”

Pacific Publishing Corporation (PPC) destroyed it all and then after they destroyed it, they fired me.

And the publication’s greedy owners sat back and let it happen.

This is my resulting philosophy: “If you knowingly and willingly support an organization that does not value human beings, you are condoning its behavior.”

Every single time a “friend” posts a link to that rag, I am disgusted. It’s like a physical punch in the face. Actually, I’d rather be punched in the face. Often, particularly if the story is being posted on a community page with a broad audience, I will delete and block the person immediately.

I have made several exceptions to this, and remain conflicted.

PPC and RCO Legal, aka RIM Publications, aka Northwest Trustee Services, aka the Monroe Monitor, aka Stephen Routh, have erased me. They erased me at the worst possible time. Not being able to demonstrate what I’ve done for the past four years is extraordinarily detrimental to my life. As an addict in recovery, I have complex set of legal issues stemming from my past drug use that need to be addressed. I will need to demonstrate who I am and having my work destroyed makes it difficult.

All in the name of housing foreclosures. All in the name of profiting off the misfortunes of others. That is the only reason the Monitor still exists.

Somebody once told me that I worked for the Antichrist. She was right.

As I struggled with whether or not to write this piece, I got a Facebook message from one of my valley friends. The reporter hired behind my back to take my job reached out to her, asking her to call about a story. Her response? “No I won’t. I want nothing to do with your paper since the dismissal of Chris.”

I was so grateful I wanted to cry. I know it’s unrealistic and selfish and preposterous, but I wish everyone would do that. Continuing to interact with that “newspaper” gives it legitimacy it does not deserve.

I can’t look at the Monitor anymore.

I just can’t.

It is unfortunate that a copy of it was left on my desk. It really made me contemplate my life. If an issue is made about the fact that I will not associate with that “newspaper” in any way, then I’ll have to make a decision on how to move forward. Even my coworker and office-mate, who has been borderline obtuse in terms of my feelings about the Monitor, thought it odd that somebody would leave one on my desk. But she didn’t want to throw it away, she said, because she didn’t know who put it there.

So she left it where it was.

I could have used a Kayla on Monday. She would have thrown that shit right in the trash where it belongs.

Kayla and I outside in a snow storm, Seattle, 2008. 

Me and Kayla

The Great Bread Loaf Caper of 2004

One of the most incredible things I did as a part of the Monroe Police Department Citizens Academy last year was a visit to the training simulator at the Edmonds Police Department.

It’s this really cool interactive tool where you are presented with a potentially criminal scenario that is projected, life-size, onto a wall. You’re given a laser gun and the opportunity to figure out what to do. You might stumble across an obvious crime in progress in one scenario, while the next scenario might not be a crime at all. The scenarios range from innocent to subtle to extremely dynamic, and they change depending on how you behave. When you talk to the video projection, it responds. The goal is to apprehend the bad guys and avoid hurting innocent bystanders.

I sucked at it. Like seriously. I was the worst cop ever.

The funny part is that I couldn’t remember where the Edmonds Police Department was, so I used navigation to get there. Of course, once I got close, I quickly realized I knew exactly where I was going. I’ve been in trouble in Edmonds – the Great Bread Loaf Caper of 2004 – so I’ve made numerous trips to that police station and courthouse.

Also, my main drug dealer lived near five-corners, which is just up the street. I’m painfully familiar with that area. The drive brought back a lot of memories – mostly bad but also good.

There is no greater feeling in the world than when you’re sailing down the freeway with the windows down, the tunes cranked, money in your pocket and the knowledge that your dealer is home, holding and expecting you. Especially if you’re just a tiny bit dopesick, or maybe even a lot of the way dopesick. The unadulterated confidence that you feel knowing relief is literally right around the corner is delicious.

You are giddy and excited. It’s freedom.

It’s a sure thing.

Sadly, I haven’t found a lot of ways to match that exact feeling. I think the only thing that even remotely comes close has to do with love… But not love really. It’s that feeling that you have in the pit of your stomach when the person you have a soul-shattering crush on invites you to their house for the first time. It’s butterflies. It’s when you are driving to see the person who gives you butterflies and you are pretty sure that you’re going to be spending the night.

You can’t buy that feeling. You can’t buy butterflies. I love that feeling and I also kind of hate it.

Dope is easier. Dope doesn’t care what your ass looks like without clothes on. It doesn’t care about that roll of flab on your stomach or the lines on your face or what you look like in the morning. Dope doesn’t dump you for no reason. Dope doesn’t care if you’re clever or cool or awesome… With dope, you never have to worry about being enough.

I live in constant fear that I’m not enough. And I don’t believe people when they tell me that I am.

The ugliness of addiction outweighs its beauty by a longshot, however it’s not without beauty. I’ve said this before and I still believe it to be true – it’s the simplicity of addiction that makes it compelling. Heroin addiction is black and white. There are two states of being; sick or well.

Regular life is a kaleidoscope of muddled shades of grey that make me dizzy and exhausted.

At any rate, the Great Bread Loaf Caper of 2004 was a simple grocery store heist gone wrong… Except, we didn’t use the traditional cart method – we shoved everything into one of those little red baskets. That was why the bread loaf was so prominent. We took items of value as well, but they were tucked down inside the basket. That long, skinny loaf of French bread stuck out of the top as plain as day.

When we fled the store, witnesses saw the bread loaf and nothing else.

I don’t even know why we were doing that. I was living at Traveler’s at the time, which was a crappy hotel on 99 right by 220th. I already had dope in my hotel room but I guess we must have needed more, which was always the case. I was riding around with a girl I knew, I’ll call her Tina, and a couple guys too. I don’t remember who the guys were.

As we got back to Traveler’s, I was immediately surround by Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace PD. The grocery store was in Edmonds, and Mountlake Terrace PD must have been called to assist since my hotel was in its jurisdiction. Unfortunately, as they came up to the car and started questioning me, they spotted Tina in the back seat happily munching on that ill-fated loaf of French bread.

This is what is known as a clue.

Mountlake Terrace didn’t like me for some reason and wanted to go inside my hotel room. Luckily, they couldn’t. I wouldn’t let them, because I didn’t want them taking my dope, and I guess maybe they couldn’t get a warrant. I remember thinking, just hurry the fuck up because I want to go and smoke some crack. The Edmonds cop was super nice – he said he didn’t care about what was in my hotel room.

I guess he just cared a lot about bread. And possibly the stolen credit card I happened to have in my wallet. He cared about that too.

I never went to court so that became a warrant. My famous loaf of bread warrant. That warrant followed me around like a bad rumor on social media – popping back up when I least expected it. I was on federal probation three years later and my PO called me to her office one day. She was so baffled that she gave me the news in the form of a question.

“You have a warrant out of Edmonds for…. A loaf of bread?”

The thing about it that I found irritating was that I shouldn’t have had that warrant. I had taken care of all my warrants when I was on pretrial status with the feds, which is sort of a preliminary probation that you go on pending sentencing. I did the whole deal; I went to court, paid the fine and did the community service. I even did the community service in Edmonds. It annoyed me that it popped back up as a warrant, plus I hated my probation officer, so I took no action. I figured that the Seattle police had more important things to do than screw with me over a loaf of bread warrant.

And they did. Until one night they didn’t, and I had an apartment full of Seattle police officers. Fortunately, they didn’t care much about the loaf of bread. I had popped up as a known associate of somebody they were looking for, and when they noticed I had a warrant, they decided to come for a visit. They were waving around this truly hideous mugshot of me.

“We could take you to jail right now,” they said.

But they didn’t.

I did appreciate not being incarcerated over a 3-year-old loaf of bread, so I drove up to Edmonds, quashed the warrant and got the whole thing straightened out. I decided to call the Seattle Police Department to let them know. One of the officers had left his card, so I knew how to get a hold of him. He was really happy that I called. I think that must have been in 2008, which means that I drove around Seattle for over a year with that warrant.

Being in Edmonds as a part of the academy, with law enforcement officers that I admire and respect and view as heroes, was incredibly rewarding. Especially once I realized where I was. Full circle moments like that happened often in my job as a reporter and I will miss them very much.

Moral of the story, perhaps exclude bread from your grocery store heist.

Also, for the record, I was way better at SWAT than I was at the simulator.

Monroe Police Department Citizens Academy 2016, Photo by Officer Craig Robertson

me-citz-academy

Clear and a million

When I was in junior high, one of my closest friends was a girl named Rachael Juzeler. My house was about a half-mile away from her house, so I’d ride my bike over there all the time.

I remember one time, we wanted some money, but we couldn’t figure out a way to get it. The thought of doing chores didn’t appeal, as chores typically offered a very low rate of return. So, we did what any normal 13-year-old girls would do: we got a book on witchcraft, and decided to get money by doing magic. I honestly don’t recall all the intricacies of our sorcery, but it involved us banging on some type of a makeshift drum in Rachael’s driveway, chanting about how we wanted money to come to us. I believe we had to light something on fire too, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

Money did not come to us.

I was crushed. I wanted so badly to be able to do magic. I wanted so badly to be able to think about something and make it happen with the power of my mind. I still do. Especially now.

I wish I could do magic.

I am broken. I am irreparably shattered. I lived and breathed the Monroe Monitor and Valley News for four years and nobody should have been able to take that away from me. For the last 2-1/2 years, I worked seven days a week writing that paper and I loved it. It was my entire existence.

I’m not saying that it was the perfect job, but I didn’t deserve to be lied to and stabbed in the back. I didn’t deserve to be blatantly used to produce one last newspaper, when actually, I was fired the entire time I was writing it. I made coffee at 9 p.m. that Saturday night, to make sure I could stay awake long enough to get everything done. And I was fired the entire time.

I covered an event that weekend. I engaged in hours of careful research. I bled and sweat over my work. And I was fired the entire time.

Was I happy there? I was happy with the work, but the company that manages the Monitor was terrible at paying me. There were numerous times I went an entire month without a paycheck; for no reason. I was never given an explanation or an apology, until I eventually demanded one. At that point, I received an ersatz apology that arrived with zero explanation. And my strategy apparently didn’t go over so well, as we all know what happened next.

All I ever wanted was to be treated respectfully. Yes, things occasionally got ugly, but it was always because I hadn’t been paid in six weeks or the general manager was badmouthing me.

He could never get it through his thick skull that if he said negative things about me, I would find out.

Every. Single. Time.

There has been only one other time in my entire life that I have actively wanted to cause physical harm to another person. That was a decade ago, and I have never reconciled those feelings. It doesn’t matter how many fourth steps I do. This will be the same, if not worse, because the hate I have for the people that fired me is even more intense than the hate I had for that other individual. That hate I have for any person who participated in the lies and the trickery and the deception is beyond redemption.

These people stripped away my entire life, and they did it in a way that was utterly revolting. Maybe it was stupid of me, but I did not see this coming. I was blindsided.

2017 was clear and a million until my entire world imploded on itself.

The only thing that I want to do, is make them hurt as bad as I do. That is the only thing I want.

I guess it’s good that I can’t do magic. I really hate violence, I hate perpetuating more hate and I hate how ugly I am on the inside right now.

Last January, my relationship ended. It was the longest relationship I’ve ever had and it was not my choice to end it. I thought I was going to die, but at least I still had my job. I threw myself into my work with even more passion than before. I did amazing things last year. All year long. I won awards, I received accolades, I was the co-grand marshal in the Monroe Fair Days Parade and I was the first media person ever in the state to win a Washington State Exemplary Substance Abuse Prevention Award for my efforts as a community prevention leader.

I won an WNPA award for a story I did about education.

I’m grateful for that WNPA award. Since the company that manages the Monitor destroyed all my archives, I won’t even be able to apply this year.

I was a part of the Monroe Police Department Citizens Academy, which was definitely one of the most important things that I’ve ever done. I went on a ride-along with a super cool officer and the experience changed my life. I delivered Christmas presents with firefighters on Christmas Eve.

When I was suddenly fired less than two weeks ago, the community rallied around me, helping me raise just over $1,000 to keep my phone on and my rent paid while I look for another job. Just a few days prior to that, the city of Monroe honored me with a key to the city.

A key to the city.

Have I wanted to use? Yes. Absolutely yes. I am an addict. For some reason there are veins in my hands that keep popping out and the other day the thought of doing a speedball just randomly popped into my head. Like how great it would be to do a speedball, except not one that I would survive. A really big one. One that didn’t step towards the edge, but looked at the edge and dove straight off.

Binge-eating has also crossed my mind. Not quite as fatal, but still misery-inducing. I have been repeating the infamous phrase “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” over and over and over. It’s my new mantra. I don’t care if it’s shallow. I worked my ass off last year, and lost over 60 pounds. This bullshit isn’t going to take that away from me.

This bullshit isn’t going to take my health. This bullshit isn’t going to take my sobriety.

I don’t know how I’m going to survive this.

I wish I could do magic.

I took this photo in Gold Bar and it seems fitting. I have no idea what lies ahead….

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My rainy ride-along

I love the Monroe Police Department.

I mean, I reallllllly LOVE them. So when I found out they were doing a 2016 Citizens Academy, I sent an email to find out if I could get permission to attend. Citizens academies require a background check, which I cannot pass, so I knew I’d have to get it cleared through the department administration.

When I did the Sky Valley Citizens Academy with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in 2014, it never came up. The chief up there invited me because I’m media and that’s all there was to it. I loved that academy. It totally changed my life.

The Monroe academy has been another life-changing experience and I am so grateful that I’ve been able to participate. Citizens academies are rad; you basically get to go to the police station every week for a three-hour class, and learn all about what it’s like to be a cop. As a part of that, attendees have the opportunity to do a ride-along, where you actually get to ride along with an officer and experience firsthand what the job is like. Initially, I wasn’t planning on doing a ride-along – since my attendance at the academy is strictly as media, I wasn’t even sure they’d let me.

But one of my friends had such an amazing time on her ride-along that she strongly suggested I go on one too. The department said I could, so I set it up.

The scariest part about doing a ride-along, for me, was the fact that I was going to be trapped in a confined space with another human person who I barely knew. For five solid hours. I can’t even go 30 minutes without making a complete spaz of myself, so five hours was a frightening prospect. The possibility that I’m going to say something completely embarrassing causing my face to turn bright red… Well, in five hours it’s pretty much a guarantee.

Like, it is going to happen – it’s Vegas odds. The house always wins.

But my officer was amazing. Nothing I said phased him at all – he rolled with everything like it wasn’t a big deal. Initially, when I started working with law enforcement, I was terrified of cops. I didn’t want any of them to find out I was a felon and was completely nervous about talking about my past drug addiction. But little by little I’ve started opening up more and more. Now I tell them – I tell everyone. As a matter of fact, I tell almost every cop that I engage in conversation with.

There are reasons for this. I know how hard they work and I know how frustrating it is to deal with addicts. Nowadays, the jail won’t even take them a lot of the time.

Seriously, junkies today catch all the breaks. Back in my day, they stuck our asses in jail. I’m that grumpy grandpa who’s all like, “Back in my day, we walked to school in the snow! Without shoes! Uphill both ways!” Except junkie-style. “Back in my day, we smoked crack! And when we left the dope house they pulled us over and busted us for heroin! Then they threw us in jail! They didn’t care about our junkie feelings and our severe withdrawal symptoms!”

I find myself hilarious with this.

So I tell the cops that I used to be a junkie so they know that their work saved at least one life – mine. Thank god I got arrested and thank god I was in big enough trouble that the feds weren’t willing to let me go. There was no bail for me, I just had to sit there, no methadone, no nothing.

Sometimes, I’ll do it immediately after I meet a cop. Which is kind of weird and super embarrassing. It’s been a strange phenomenon… I can hear my brain, loudly telling me, “Don’t do it Chris, close your mouth, stop, stop, don’t say it….” But my mouth starts moving anyway. That recently happened when I interviewed the new chief of police in Sultan. Literally, I talked to him for about 20 minutes before confessing that I was a former junkie.

I set a new record on my ride-along. I think I was in the car for about 30 seconds before I admitted I had previous criminal history. I honestly have no idea why I’m so weird.

But my ride-along officer was totally cool – he didn’t even care. That’s been one of the best things about the academy. No officer has treated me differently because of my history. It’s amazing.

We responded to several calls that night. One of them I will never forget.

Somehow the department got word that a well-known female addict was belligerent, and out walking around on Main Street. We zoomed off to go track her down.

We drove up and down Main Street and onto Village Way looking for her, but didn’t have any luck. Then, we learned that the Sergeant had located her and had her “stopped” down in front of city hall. We got there a couple seconds later, as did another patrol officer. It was pouring down rain – relentlessly raining – and she stood there as the officers talked to her. She had a black hat on and what looked like a black hoodie and I could see that her hair was blond.

She was getting soaking wet.

I watched one of the officers as he went through her purse, and thought about how many times I’ve been through that exact thing. “Do you have anything that’s going to poke me?”

That’s what they always ask.

I thought about all the times I knew with unwavering certainty that they were going to find my dope and take it. Man did I hate that. I watched them pull a whipped cream can out of her purse – pretty status quo. She had used rigs too. I looked at her and thought about how she must feel. I know what it’s like to know you’re going to jail and that there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

She was me and I was her.

That is, until they got her in the car.

At first, I could hear her mumbling, “Thank God, thank God I’m going to jail…” Not words that I’ve necessarily ever uttered, but she was obviously having a rough night. I don’t think she realized I was there at first, but the minute she did, she was not pleased. And once my officer got back in and started talking to me, she completely lost her shit. There was a lot of name-calling and inappropriate racial slurs and I think she might have even called us homos, which literally made no sense.

She insulted my officer and his abilities as a police officer. That pissed me off. I felt protective.

I honestly didn’t understand that behavior. I never, ever acted like that.

Did I enjoy getting arrested? No. It meant for sure I was going to be dope-sick. Did I love police officers? Well, at the time, no, I didn’t. That’s because if I happened to run into one, I was likely getting arrested.

I was a walking felony.

But I never flipped out and went all crazy with a bunch of name-calling. I do remember being irritated with one of the King County guys that picked me up on my federal warrant, but that was only because he annoyed me by assuming that I had been out hitting mailboxes.

I had pride as a criminal. I was way too smart and awesome for something as mundane as stealing stuff out of mailboxes. Come on.

But I still didn’t freak out and call him a bunch of names like a total jerk. This girl went from zero to heinous bitch almost instantaneously. When we got her to the jail I could see her face and how tired and worn out she looked. It was nerve-wracking to walk in that back door; I made sure I didn’t let myself get too far away from my officer.

Any other time I’ve gone in that particular door, I haven’t come back out.

But this time, I got to talk to the lady at the desk about her bulldog, while the girl we arrested sat and waited for her plastic shoes. I fucking hate those shoes.

I later emailed the Sergeant who approved my ride-along to thank him for allowing me to have that experience. Watching (myself) that junkie get arrested was incredibly powerful – more intense than any 12-step meeting I’ve ever attended. I never want to be that person ever again. I don’t want all that crap in my purse, I don’t want my entire life contingent on when and where I get my next bit of dope. I don’t want to wander around in the pouring rain, unable to find my way home.

Not that I don’t love getting high because I damn well do. Nobody but another junkie really gets how compelling the lure of opiates really is. Which is why I’m so grateful for my ride-along experience.

I love the Monroe Police Department.

I mean, I reallllllly LOVE them.

Here is me with my friend, Officer Jason Southard, and my BFF Nuke!!

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The beauty of addiction

This might sound strange, but as I sit here on my four-year clean and sober birthday, I cannot help but contemplate the beauty of addiction. It seems weird… Like a bizarre contradiction. Nobody that hasn’t been there will really understand what I mean, but there is a simplistic beauty in active addiction that I sometimes miss – particularly when I think about what this year has been like.

This year has been a nightmare for me, on numerous levels. My boyfriend and I broke up, I moved into a place by myself, I had a nervous breakdown, wrote a newspaper while having a nervous breakdown, and have found myself unable to make ends meet. It’s been a constant roller-coaster of me being sad, overwhelmed, exhausted and frantically worried about how in the world I’m going to get the paper done.

I am convinced, 99 percent of the time, that I am not good enough. I am convinced, 100 percent of the time, that everybody is going to figure out that I’m not good enough.

Not that there hasn’t been any joy. I recently did a story about a girl who was rescued from the Skykomish River after she was flipped out of her kayak and nearly drowned. It turned out that I knew her – I met her on previous story and remembered that she was kind. I wanted to see the place on the river where she almost died, so I drove up to Rivers End Ranch after interviewing the firefighters who saved her.

I knew it had happened in a side channel that runs alongside the farms off lower Fern Bluff, so I asked the owner of Rivers End if he could show me the spot.

We ended up racing across the farm on a four-wheeler, with a little farm dog named Annie keeping pace with us the entire way. It was a gorgeous day and it was just so spur-of-the moment and fun. It was exactly like that part in Top Gun, except Sky Valley style. And instead of a Kenny Loggins song there was a dog.

I’m grateful for the valley and the people in it, who give me riverside rides on four-wheelers when I decide to just show up without calling.

I’m grateful for my home, I’m grateful for the communities in which I work and I’m grateful for my readers. I’m grateful for the people that appreciate what I write because I put a lot of work into it. I was recently recognized by the Monroe Community Coalition, and before that, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce gave me a community advocacy award and asked me to be the co-grand marshal during this year’s Monroe Fair Days Parade.

It’s mind-blowing.

Ten years ago on June 26, I had been out of federal prison for three days. Four years ago on June 26 I was in detox.

My readers are wonderful. In May, when the company I freelance for decided not to pay me for 27 days, it was a reader who came to my rescue, handing me a box full of food.

My refrigerator was literally empty, so the gesture was appreciated.

I received the cruelest, meanest, most disrespectful email of my entire career this year. I also received several of the most life-changing compliments of my entire career this year. It’s confusing. I’m constantly poised on the verge of something… I don’t even know what. I’m paralyzed, unable to separate my work from my life because the two have become virtually the same thing.

Except that they’re not. My life is my life, it’s one of solitude, which might sound odd but it’s true.

I’m happy, sad, broken-hearted, discouraged, angry and upset, constantly annoyed by the chaotic kaleidoscope of my emotions. Every single time I walk away from a social interaction, I am berate myself for some dumb thing that I said or did, which will surely lead to my inevitable demise.

None of which I would have to deal with if I was using. Being an addict is not easy, but it is simple, because it removes all those emotions, worries and fears. They simply cease to exist.

When you’re a junkie, your world is entirely black and white; there is never a kaleidoscope, there are no colors, no shades of grey. Everything is dependent on whether you are sick or well. Day in and day out, sick or well are the only two things that matter. There are no feelings; there are no accomplishments, no successes and no failures. There is no happy and there is no sad because those things don’t matter at all.

When you’re an addict, you’re either sick or you’re well. And if you’re sick, there is an immediate solution which will always work with an absolute 100 percent certainty: do some drugs.

You can be laying there, sweating, shaking, freezing cold with your nose running down your face. Or maybe you’re out looking for drugs and it feels like the skin is about to crawl off your body. You have no energy; just walking to your car is agony. A shot of heroin or a handful of pain pills and all of that goes away, guaranteed. Better than antidepressants, better than counselors and doctors and friends.

With dope it’s a sure thing. There is no “maybe this will work and maybe it won’t.”

If you’re sick, and you shoot some dope, you will always feel better.

It’s far less complicated than real life.

All that said, yes, I’m grateful to be clean. I’m grateful that I get to contribute in a positive way – and I’m grateful for the chance to make living amends. I love supporting my passionate friends and their wonderful causes, including education, fire safety, veteran services and addiction awareness. I especially love supporting my first responders, including Monroe police and fire and Clearview fire too, since they are now also mine. I’m unsure how many times Clearview firefighters hauled me off to the ER after overdosing – I hope for many opportunities to honor them.

The other day at the Monroe Police Department I noticed that in addition to many of the stories I’ve written about the department, one of the best officer photos I’ve ever taken hangs on a bulletin board in the hallway. I almost cried when I saw it.

What an honor.

Happy four years clean to me.

 

Cool photo I took of Sgt. Brian Johnston

Sgt Johnston 2

The 2016 Monroe Fair Days co-grand marshals, Chef Adam Hoffman and me

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Beauty in the grey

It seems like everything is grey inside the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.

The only splash of color that you really get is from the uniforms, which are khaki brown. And the t-shirts all turn the same color of dirty-greyish-pink in the wash. Nobody has a white t-shirt, and if you’re lucky enough to get one, you don’t let it get anywhere near the prison laundry facilities. Somebody gave me a chocolate-brown colored t-shirt once and I was thrilled to pieces with that thing – because it was something different.

I used to wear it with my grey sweatpants in the afternoons after my workout.

Working out was my favorite thing to do in prison. It was really one of the only things to do. I didn’t like to watch TV, and they didn’t have a lot of options when it came to AA meetings. Going to the library was out of the question – I hated to leave the unit if I didn’t have to.

One thing they did have a lot of was church.

There were several different prison ministries that were allowed to come onto the unit to do Bible studies with us, one of which was an Asian Christian ministry. I don’t know what church they were from, but two or three of them would come every week and they’d sing songs with us. I don’t think they really spoke much English, and the only one I remember really clearly was a man named Peter, who was blind. He wore sunglasses and would play the guitar and we would sit around and sing songs about Jesus.

It was something to do in the sea of grey.

The bleakness of the grey really stood out at Christmas time, which is typically such a vivid time of year. Normally, everything is red, green and gold, there are colored lights everywhere you look, all with a liberal dose of silver tinsel. It was weird being locked up at Christmas time. It was like having an out-of-body experience.

But sometimes, the most remarkable things happen in the strangest places.

I honestly don’t remember if it happened on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, but somehow, members of that Asian church got permission from the feds to come in with their entire church choir and sing us Christmas carols. Looking back, I’m surprised the feds let it happen. They allowed the whole choir to wander the unit, in groups of two or three, and sing Christmas carols to anybody who would listen.

It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.

The sound was stunning. It completely transformed our unit.

Their voices were wonderful. They were perfectly in tune, melodic and utterly lovely. It was the most beautiful thing we had ever heard and it hurt us to listen to it. It transcended everything – it reached into our rooms and drew us out. Sitting in the common area, the sound was everywhere, a gentle crescendo that flowed down and infiltrated every corner of that grey, gloomy unit.

The dissonance was striking.

I watched as a girl name Vegas came out of her room and sat down. I watched the look on her face. I have no idea what her real name was; she wasn’t friendly and we never really talked. She was a beautiful girl, and as I looked at her, I saw her eyes were red and filled with tears. I watched them spill over, sliding silently down her cheeks.

It broke our hearts, but at the same time filled us with joy.

It didn’t matter what kind of music we liked in our former lives. It didn’t matter what kind of music we listened to on our clear plastic radios that we purchased on commissary. Nothing mattered except for that music at that moment. As the choir members walked and sang they smiled, emanating kindness and grace as they moved and filled our lives, briefly, with something miraculous.

The feds really kind of made an effort at Christmas time. One night after lockdown the correctional officers came around with eggnog and cookies, and at one point, they allowed several of the Mexican ladies to make tamales for everyone on the unit. They let us decorate the movie/bible study/workout room, allowing us to craft a “Christmas tree” out of paper, including paper lights and ornaments.

They even let us use real scissors.

But the shining star of that holiday was that Asian choir.

That choir gave us a beautiful Christmas in the unlikeliest of places and I will never forget it.

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Tank Man

“But what would make somebody stand in front of a tank?” – Erin Gruwell, 2016

Ever since I heard Erin Gruwell speak at Sultan High School recently, I haven’t been able to get her message out of my head. To be honest, I’d never heard of her, or the Freedom Writers, or the movie of the same name. But she was the greatest speaker I have ever had the privilege of listening to.

Erin Gruwell started as a first-year high school teacher in Long Beach, California in 1994. Her students were considered the worst of the worst; they were homeless, often violent, and at times, filled with hate. Some had drug-addicted and alcoholic parents who were abusive. Many, at the age of 14, had buried multiple friends and relatives due to gang violence. Many had never read a book.

There were 150 of them, total, and Erin Gruwell changed their lives.

Instead of becoming pregnant, incarcerated or dead, they were transformed into successful writers. Together, Gruwell and her Freedom Writers published a book called The Freedom Writers Diary, which became number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. A movie version of the events came out in 2007; it was called Freedom Writers, and it starred Hilary Swank.

Every single one of Erin Gruwell’s 150 students graduated. Many went on to college while some joined the military. Some work at the Freedom Writers Foundation, which Gruwell founded in 1999.

During her speech she talked about a few the things that influenced her, including something that happened during the Tiananmen Square protests in China in 1989. As soon as she said the words “Tiananmen Square,” my soul expanded. I know about Tiananmen Square! I felt like jumping off the bleachers and yelling “I know about Tiananmen Square! I know what that is!!!”

It stuns me when I know things like this.

The Tiananmen Square protest was a student-led movement that eschewed the Communist Party’s stifling politics. They advocated for democracy, calling for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Their message was not well-received by Chinese leaders, who implemented martial law to silence them. As military troops were deployed, soldiers armed with assault rifles descended into Beijing in tanks, killing and injuring many unarmed civilians.

In college at the time, Gruwell said she recalled seeing news footage of a man who stood in front of a tank. She talked about power of that image and how it affected her. Her words hit me like a fist.

“But what would make somebody stand in front of a tank?”

I decided to see if I could find out about Tank Man. I figured if it was something shown by the American media in 1989, there was a decent chance that it would exist online today – and it does. Tank Man was easy to find; particularly since nobody has ever been able to figure out who he was.

Tank Man remains a mystery to this day.

Tank Man didn’t just stand in front of the tank. He stood in front of many tanks – an entire column of tanks. As you watch the footage, you see him stand there, quite still, holding what appears to be two shopping bags. His right arm rises and he swings the bag angrily, in what looks like an attempt to deter the tank driver. Each time the lead tank tries to proceed around him, he repositions himself so that he’s standing in front of it again.

Nobody knows who Tank Man was, or what happened to him after that. Nobody knows what happened after he stood in front of certain death, looked it in the eye and basically told it where to go.

Tank Man is totally a thing; he even has his own Wikipedia page.

Every time I think about Tank Man, I tear up.

In all honesty, 2016 has been extraordinarily difficult for me. I am, for the most part, pretty miserable. It’s a struggle to get out of bed, it’s a struggle to go to work and it’s a struggle to be out in public.

I had to move in 2016. I had the leave the house I lived in for two years, the house that I loved, to go and live alone. I became separated from the person I considered to be my soulmate, the love of my life, the person I wanted to be with forever. I lost my house and my boyfriend seemingly overnight, and on January 16, I lost a bit of myself.

Ever since that day, things have been significantly more difficult.

Every second of every day, my body screams out for some form of relief; something to hush the nonstop chatter in my brain. The echoing chorus of voices in my head telling me what a terrible person I am, what a horrible writer I am, and that I’ll never amount to anything. For the majority of my life, I relied on narcotics, alcohol, marijuana or some other mind-altering substance to hinder the nonstop bombardment of self-loathing.

To quiet that part of myself that can’t quite stand to be alive.

I understand that there are people much worse off than I am, but it’s not a contest. I am tired of feeling bad about my feelings. No I’m not a family living in squalor, and no, my child didn’t just pass away. My challenges are different, and might not seem, on the surface, to be as bad as a multitude of other things. But I’m the one who has to live in my skin. I’m the one that has to suffer the consequences of my past.

I’m the one that has to fight, every day, to stay sober.

On January 16, I had what can only be described as a nervous breakdown. I wrote the entire newspaper in complete hysterics; I was hyperventilating, sobbing hysterically, in desperate pain from a migraine and in a complete and utter panic. I was awake all night, sleep refused to come, and it felt like my heart had shattered inside my chest.

The next day I went to urgent care, because I felt like I was dying – I actually didn’t care if I was dying. I welcomed it.

Ever since that weekend, everything has been more difficult. My job, which used to be my solace, is no longer. People are cruel, heartless and rude, and a sense of entitlement pervades. They think it’s ok to tell me how disappointed they are in my newspaper, or send me vicious emails, or complain that I didn’t cover something that I knew nothing about.

They have invaded my Mayberry and marred it with graffiti.

All for a job that doesn’t even pay me enough to support myself.

The trip to urgent care on the 17th, oddly enough, netted me a few Xanax. I sat there, and stared at the doctor through my tears, with my brain screaming “I’m an addict!! Don’t give me Xanax!” But I couldn’t form the words. I wanted the pills. I knew I wasn’t going to actually take them, and once I saw the prescription I was even more certain I wouldn’t take them.

There was barely enough to get high.

But I like the security of knowing that they’re there.

I like to stand in front of that tank, and prove my unrelenting strength in the face of my own misery. I like knowing about Tank Man, who stood fearlessly for what he believed in. He stood for freedom, which is just about the most important thing anybody could ever stand for. Nothing could ever be braver than that and I would never try to compare myself to someone like that.

But I will tell you that addiction is a pretty fierce fucking tank, and I stand in front of it every day.

Tianasquare

Here is a link to the story I wrote about Erin Gruwell’s speech at Sultan High School.

 

 

The last full measure of devotion

It is finally here. As of today, I’ve somehow managed to stay clean and sober for three years. I look at the time that’s passed since June of 2012 and think about how wide the gap is between now and then. Yet at the same time, it feels like yesterday. Mornings were spent sitting on my front porch, smoking cigarettes and trying, over and over, to get into detox. I can still feel the cool hardness of the cement.

I can instantly recall the misery of withdrawal; the pain, the weakness, the agony. My body screaming at me for hours, days, weeks on end. It’s always a nightmare and it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older.

I have transformed myself; I am a completely different person in every way.

In a weird way, my job has become intrinsically tied to my sobriety. It’s been that way since the beginning, when I first arrived in the amazingly wonderful community of Sultan. That city and all its parts wholeheartedly embraced me and I love everyone who helped create that feeling of acceptance and belonging.

I love driving to Sultan. There is an unmistakable feeling of freedom the moment I hit U.S. 2 – the gorgeous and mighty Skykomish River on my right and mountains dead ahead. It’s breathtaking.

I get that same feeling when I drive through Monroe to get to my office.

I’ve never been arrested in Monroe or the Sky Valley. (Well actually I have. But it was many, many years ago, and it only happened once. It hardly counts.)

More importantly, I’ve never purchased drugs in Monroe or Sultan or anywhere in the valley. I don’t have to worry about rounding a corner and seeing some drug house that I’ve frequented, or some parking lot I’ve nodded off in, or some crappy gas station bathroom that I’ve shot up in. I’ve never ran from the cops, hidden in the bushes, or lived in some musty hotel room.

I always disliked cops. I had no reason to dislike them, other than the fact they arrested me all the time. You could hardly blame them. I was a walking felony.

Oddly enough, this is one of the things I love most about Monroe – the police officers. It never ceases to amaze and thrill me when I get to interact with those guys (and girls). I feel the same way about the fire department; they are fantastic as well. I love Monroe, I love Main Street – I love every single thing about it. When I look at the empty storefronts I don’t see them the way other people do. I see promise and hope, and I’m excited about how those buildings will eventually transform.

A couple people have asked me what I think about the newly constructed sidewalks, and I sometimes feel like they want me to say that I hate them, but I can’t. I loved the way Main Street looked before the construction, and I love the way it is now, and I love the awesome new sidewalks. It’s like a miraculous and bizarre parallel universe.

It’s beautiful, it’s my Mayberry.

When I walk down Main Street, something cool always happens. I might find an awesome new shirt at My L.A. Fashion, a book I’ve been dying to read at Main Street Books, or run into someone that knows me from city council. I might see a friend having lunch in Tijuana. When a police officer drives by, and it happens to be someone I know, I wave at them. And they wave back.

They freaking wave back.

When I walk into the Sky River Bakery, the owner greets me by name. I LOVE that he does this. He has owned that bakery for close to 30 years and everything they make is amazing and delicious. I love greeting Main Street business owners and folks I’ve met through my job. The other day I ran into the mayor on Main Street and this is what happened: I walked up and said “Hi Mayor!” and gave him a hug. Which may not sound like a really huge deal, but it is for me.

I’m a hugger – I hug everyone.

My addiction still calls to me, it still wants to be my friend. It still beckons and coaxes every time I have a bad day, and reminds me of how easy it would be to get high and escape my worries. I don’t hate drugs. They were my answer for many years and they ruined my life, but I will probably always keep them, sealed up, in some corner of my being… Just in case I need to retrieve them.

Just in case it all falls apart.

I constantly fight to keep that from happening. Alcoholics Anonymous is my weapon, my armor. I love going to meetings, where absolutely anything I say is ok. I love my amazing sisters in sobriety… We fight the same fight every day of our lives. I love my boyfriend who has stayed with me throughout everything, no matter how terrible it got.

This is truly it for me. This is my battle, this is my war, and I refuse to concede. This is my “last full measure of devotion.”

three years

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