Category Archives: sobriety

Today is May 14, 2017. I am alive and well.

Is it too cliche to write about mother on Mother’s Day? I do it anyway.

My mother has been dead for a long time. I miss her more today then I did when she first died. I have more life experiences to share with her. A whole tablet full of life; sentences that breathe…I had a boyfriend for fourteen years who left me for another woman and moved to Florida. Mom was not familiar with me having boyfriends. She knew me to have girlfriends. She hated the fact that I had girlfriends.

Mom died from a liver that stopped working. Yes, it was an alcohol related death. I knew she drank too much, but I didn’t know it was signed up to kill her. She was walking around as usual on Thursday and then in a coma that night. The second to last thing she said to me was from a psychiatric urgent care. She was acting crazy and her roommate called crisis. Crisis took her to the urgent care. She said to me she trusted “all the wrong people.” I’m certain she meant my father for one. He ran away with another woman the same month that both mom’s parents had died. It was tragic. It was a river stopped by a damn beavers had made. The flow interrupted. She asked me one morning to go to my father’s apartment to catch him with the other woman. My father was living in an apartment for work and would go home on the weekends until he wouldn’t anymore. I refused to go catch him.

The psychiatric urgent care wanted to clear my mom physically before treating her mind. They thought she looked bad. She fell into a coma in the ambulance on the way to Lincoln Memorial hospital. Honest Abe. The honest thing to say about her death is that her alcohol consumption killed her. She was a drunk. I tell her story with the hope that other people will put down the bourbon, knowing that alcohol is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” A person can’t direct what heavily drinking will do. The alcohol is the beast with all the power.

I visited her at Lincoln Memorial. The last thing she did was sit up and stare at me. I told her I loved her. I told her I knew she loved her daughters. She laid back down with a sigh. And that was it. She died without waking again. She was only 58. Five years more than I am right now. Five years I have to set the world afire doing my thing. What is my thing to do? To write. To read. To work. To love. To write.

I miss you mom. When the cats are both staring at the entrance to my bedroom, I choose to believe it’s you who has come to visit. You give me strength. You taught me to be courageous. I will always be your daughter. I will live past 58. I hope you are proud of me. I love you like I do walking. I walk forward with you on my mind. You, leading me to water. Thank you.

Today is May 1, 2017. I am alive and well.

The first thing my sister said to me when I ran into her after 7 years of no contact was “Wow, you’re still alive.” And then my uncle said to me yesterday “I bet you didn’t think you’d see 53.”

It is true. I had no intention of living to 53. A driver has no intention of holding up traffic when her truck stalls out. I have had somewhere between 15 and 20 suicide attempts in my lifetime. The last one was in 1999. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to die since then; that’s simply the last time I attempted. Maybe the East Indian doctor with the soulful dark eyes, smelling of lavender, rubbed off on me. She told me at my bedside in the hospital ICU that I had a lot of life to live. That I had something special to offer. A five-year-old gets excited when she opens the door of the restaurant for her mother for the first time, offering entrance. I got excited about my book being published in 2014. It documented my recovery from schizophrenia and alcoholism. And yes, my time away from my last suicide attempt.

I have been free from the obsession to die for sometime now. That thought had plagued me like wanting a cigarette, needing a cigarette, in a smoke free coffee house. All thinking got set aside as I prayed for God to take me after swallowing handfuls of pills.

I am very bad at dying. It is hard to kill one’s self. I believe that those who do die from suicide were meant too….I can’t tell you why I believe this. Some ice cubes in a glass of tea float to the top while others remain at the bottom. I can’t tell you why all the ice doesn’t float to the top, getting in the way of the straw.

I am in the way of death. I have floated to the top. God removed my obsession to die. Life is new to me on a daily basis.

I remember the first time I tied my own shoes. I was excited to be able to do this on my own. On occasion, my shoe becomes untied while walking on the treadmill. I push the pause button and then bend over to tie my shoe. Ready to walk again, I hit a button and the treadmill resumes.

Life resumes. I love breathing. I love eating cake with butter cream frosting. I love that my cats woke me up this morning wanting kibbles. I take care of two living things. They thank me by curling up against me while I’m on the bed napping, writing, or reading.

There is no time to die today. Afternoon approaches. I know I will eat vegan chili, salad, and cornbread. I know I will wash my hair later. I will leave the house today to go to a sobriety meeting. I am 53 and loving it. So I say to my sister “I am alive and well.” She responds with a “thank God” and “it’s good to see you.” It is good to be seen. It will reach a 115 degrees here in the desert. And then there is air conditioning to be found inside.

Today is April 24, 2017. I am alive and well.

Two friends let me know they wanted to know how I felt in my last blog; how it felt when I broke my wrist and got called a boy. I thought how I felt was implied in the actions I took. They said not.

When I walked myself from the two teachers, without talking to them, to the nurse’s office I felt alone and my wrist hurt as if a big foot had snapped it in two. I was a shy third grader, too afraid to ask for help yet showing up at the nurse’s office like a colt on the way to a blacksmith for the first time.

Dressed in pants with my hair short and my body long I was mistaken for a boy. One particular time, I was walking down the street with my grandfather. We were heading home after getting ice cream. A neighbor called to my grandfather and asked if I was his grandson. My grandfather replied “granddaughter.” The damage was done. I was hurt and embarrassed; a small dog wet from a bath looking like a rat. My grandfather tried to make good by bringing up my report card. He said he was proud of me. All A’s.

I ran into my sister at my psychiatric clinic. I was there to get medication. I heard her say “Kristina.” Looking up from my book, there she was. She had deeply wronged me years ago so I had walked away from her. Until that moment, I hadn’t had any contact with her since my father’s funeral seven years earlier.

Seeing her was terrible. She looked like she was suffering. She looked haunted. A friend said of me decades ago that I look haunted. Now I know what she meant. It’s something to do with the eyes and expression of the face. A child waiting to be scolded for licking all the frosting off the cake.

My sister is a drug addict along with being mentally ill. It has never been more obvious. She no longer has her Sandra Bullock good looks. She is missing her front teeth and the teeth that she does have look rotted. Her face is tanned like that of a person who can’t get away from the sun, who has no shelter. Although it’s not cold, she is wrapped in a blanket. Her pants are hospital issued and her white t-shirt has seen happier days. It is no longer full of air and breeze like soft cotton is when new.

I give her my phone number but am not particularly kind to her. All said, she is still my baby sister. I wish I had been more welcoming. It’s been six days and she has yet to call. If anyone reading this knows her, please encourage her to get a hold of me. I am an older sister wanting to erase some of her strain, wanting to offer her a hot cup of coffee laced with vanilla syrup, wanting to embrace her in a hug that is intended. All said, I do love her. It hurts to know she suffers. It hurts like frost bite on a winter day, so unnecessary if simply clothed. There but for the grace of God go I…..

Today is July 11, 2016. I am alive and well.

My struggling has scuttled away on the back of a cockroach (this is imagined, I don’t have cockroaches in my condo). I brush my obsessions into a small box with a lock and throw the key down the garbage chute. The key clangs as it hits the metal of an empty bin.

One of the things I know about living a sober life is that things change. My thoughts are not clinging to my brain waves like the keys of a piano in the fingers of a beginner playing chop sticks, after chop sticks, after chop sticks. Things have shifted. I am at peace.

I just finished listening to the audio book The 27 Club. It talked about the fact that musicians Brian Wilson, Jimmi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse al died at the ago of 27. All deaths were linked to heavy alcohol and drug abuse. I find this bit of trivia astounding. The world mourned their passing. The world lost major talent. The world was robbed of beauty.

I think of my own suicide attempts. As being no celebrity, my death would be a quiet one. After one attempt at suicide, an East Indian doctor came to visit me in the Intensive Care Unit of Scottsdale Osborn Hospital. She was petite. Her hands delicately hung at her sides. Yet, there was a power to her. She said to me, “you still have something to do in this lifetime.” Her words were kind–unlike the treatment I was getting from some of the nurses. I met her gaze and realized she was not kidding or saying something for lack of saying something else comforting.

I do remember as a kid looking into the mirror and saying, “you will speak before audiences and make more money than you’ll ever need.” I have spoke before audiences while telling my story of sobriety. I have read from my poetry manuscript during my defense for my Master of Fine Arts. I have read at a local bookstore parts of my memoir, Mind Without a Home. I still have yet to have a good deal of money, but don’t doubt that it may happen.

So, it is miraculous again to be at peace after a couple of trying days. I am blessed. Thank God for this wave of linen bellowing from a clothesline.

Today is March 13, 2016. I am alive and well.

The following is the first pages of my book in progress, tentatively titled Emma in the Corner:  A Spiritual Quest of Someone Living With Schizophrenia and Alcoholism.

Foreward

This book follows on the back of Mind Without a Home. Much of Mind Without a Home was written when my brain felt sick. The writing is imagistic, metaphorical, not always lucid. In this second book, my mind feels healed. I still hear voices no one else hears. I still think things like “there is a plate in my head I need to dial into.” And yes, the other realities still exist.

When I write my mind feels healed. I have not been in a psychiatric hospital for seven years. I have held my same job with the library for five years. I have been in a relationship with one person for fourteen years, and am just recently newly single. Guy left me for someone else and I did not fall apart.

Because of this change in mind, my writing is more lucid, hopefully not to the point of being boring. Here is where I don’t necessarily know the difference between chaos, lucidity, and freshness. I really ask myself if I’m misrepresenting myself as having schizophrenia and alcoholism because I am doing so well. Then I am reminded to take it back a notch and remember that I have two illnesses that tell me I don’t have them.

If you are meeting me here after reading Mind Without a Home, welcome back. And if this is your first experience of me, hello and I’m glad you came.

Prologue

Emma. I named her Emma. The baby giraffe stands poised at eight feet, 250 pounds, in the corner of the psychiatric hall. I see her as clear as the lines on my palms. She is not able to hide among the Mimosa trees from which she eats. Her body, camouflage. A spotted stick at rest against a peeling barn.

Trees do not pop up from the gray industrial carpeting. I am the only one to see this stately, serene presence at rest in this tumultuous world:  the world outside this psychiatric unit with its loud honking cars, kids on the playground bullying the fat boy, adults bickering over bills, hate crimes inviting real artillery, artillery being used in seemingly random acts of violence.

My brain is dialed in. Emma is beautiful. I believe she winks even though I am fifty yards away at the other end of the hall.

Emma sees farther than other creatures. The Egyptian hieroglyph for giraffe means “to prophesy,” to “foretell.” I’m sad that I won’t always be dialed into Emma. But I will remember how she made me feel safe, feel cared for, feel loved. A ninety-year-old woman having her toes clipped by her granddaughter.

It is giraffe magic the way Emma can disappear among the trees. In the open, Emma stands out like an exclamation mark. It is too bad others are not dialed into seeing her. They too would feel a tremendous amount of peace radiating from her tail.

Emma’s cloven hoofs the size of a dinner plate can kick a death blow. However, giraffes almost never harm another being. They are devout pacifists with neither aggressive or territorial inclinations. They never lock the door to their home they do not have.

Giraffes have no tear ducts, but have been seen to cry.

Emma can spot a person more than a mile away with her bewitching softness of eyes, high gloss and sympathetic, framed by movie-star-lashes.

She moves as a galloping mare, and as silent as a cloud. I imagine her nibbling on stars when not taking care of me. I grow calm looking at her; my smile as large as a split watermelon.

She’s a symbol for people who just don’t fit in:  they may be too tall, or too eccentric, or simply too different from everyone else. She’s my omen of good fortune.

My six foot body reflects off her eyes. I am in love with Emma.

The nurse announces medication time. I will leave my vision, step into the common reality, assured that Emma will be in the corner when I need her.

I will be here when my brain rights itself.

Emma, me, we will live free.

The facts about giraffes I retrieved from the book Tall Blondes by Lynn Sherr.

Today is November 26, 2014. I am alive and well.

Excerpt from my book Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia…..

September 1993. I am 29 years old. At eleven years of sobriety, a heavy cloud drops on my head. Voices from other realities plague me like a gaggle of hurt geese who can’t find their way home. Men and women in black suits appear in my home and at my front door and in the grocery store aisles where cans neatly line the shelves, and boxes of cereal promise to make me an Olympian. Their presence is a plague. In three months’ time, I overdose seven times. The intensive care attendants get sick and tired of bringing me back. They refuse me cups of soda and stop washing my forehead with soft cloths in the ICU.

I move three times within these three months. People don’t want to rent me a room. Taylor comes to my rescue, as she has done many times before. She converts her living room into a bedroom.

There are three of us living in a small two bedroom apartment along with Taylor’s two large dogs. No one complains while I’m there. And no one kicks me out after I get drunk.

__________________________

not an excerpt. present day…

Life is so unlike the above today. I have 21 years of sobriety, live in my own condo, have not attempted suicide for I don’t know how many years. And I have learned to manage my symptoms well enough to have a good and full life. My past seems weird to me because I am so removed from it. I don’t live yesterdays. Today I am content with life, with who I am, wishing good cheer for all..corny, yes. But corny lights days and massages nights. I am wealthy without a dime. But I can always come up with enough to buy coffee other than Folger’s. Loving is the best thing I do in a day.