I’ve Stepped Off the Edge of the World

I’m alone tonight in an all too familiar darkness, hoping, praying the Words will be enough. But this might be where the story ends.

A brief non-sequitur:

When a friend I’d met through social media told me that she loved me, I had a visceral reaction. I responded thusly:

“Love is a word that is so easily thrown around. One whose use and misuse can be equally devastating. Too powerful a word, to be sure, to be wasted on someone you’ve never met or even spoken with. I have indeed been loved. My grandparents loved me, completely and unconditionally. My cousin loved me. My best friend, Paul. They are all gone now. The last of those who knew and loved me. Those whose love was true and genuine, and was, for me, the very breath in my lungs. Those whose love was safe and inspired me to try to love myself. Those who, despite my utter failure in being able to do so, loved me so well that it often brought me to tears.

You cannot love me…. You don’t know me. What you love are the Words I’ve strung together in some blog entries. I can appreciate that, I truly can. Words can be amazingly powerful. Heartbreakingly so.

You can’t love me because what you love about me is no longer true. You love the Words in the blog I wrote called Positively Sober. A blog written by a girl just trying to stay sober. But I’m not sober now. I relapsed. I’ve regressed to the junkie that was lying in wait, scratching and clawing her way from the depths of my soul. A junkie born and tended to by the very opposite of love. A junkie whose body is failing, whose mind is at war with itself, whose soul lies in ruins. The ruins created, by the way, in the wake of the destruction caused by someone who would whisper in my ear ‘I love you’ even as he stole the very life force from my being. Over and over again. Those fucking words.”

Truth is, there’s a connection, a bond formed, especially from shared experiences, and most especially, from shared painful experiences. We’re human and those shared experiences, the ones which we sometimes feel will consume us, are necessary for our very survival.  No one can exist in a vacuum. Though I’ll be God damned if I haven’t tried to do just that recently. It’s no way to live.

A sad, slow wash came over me tonight. I’m kicking from a relapse after about 70 days of sobriety. My last chance. And tonight as I type, I’m fighting, fighting against the swirling vortex of entropy that has become my life.

I collapsed earlier in a ball of heaping sobs, struggling to catch my breath as I contemplated this new reality, this final fucking reality. This stuttered death that stretches out long ahead of me. Perpetual dying has taken its toll. My formidable opponent. I surrender.

I never stopped thinking I could beat it. I never doubted my resolve. Until now. Now I know I am defeated. My addiction has won.

God, it’s so fucking quiet here. I feel like there should be some grand conversation, some…I don’t know, something. It’s so quiet. I yearn to hear another’s voice. To talk to me. About ordinary things, about extraordinary things. Anything to distract me from this dark quiet for a while. The silence is deafening. And it is heartbreaking.

I was thinking today of the benchmarks of my decline, physical and otherwise. I stopped working. I stopped writing, for Christ’s sake. The sign posts along the road to my demise. That’s fucking poetic right there.

There are things I want you to know about me, other than that I’m an AIDS-infected junkie. I lived life well once. I lived, I dreamed, I accomplished.

My words were brought to life on stage, and it made my heart swell with joy.

I’m a terrible cook.

I’m terrified of flying.

And I suck at algebra.

I’m a black belt in karate and a baseline piano player.

I’m a bibliophile, and I’d be hard-pressed to name my favorite author. But among my favorites I’d have to include Rimbaud, Kerouac, Burroughs, Poe, Harper Lee, Dumas, Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling. The list goes on and on.

My favorite book when I was a child was Unicorn and the Moon. I lost my copy of it years ago, but I can still picture its well-worn cover and it brings a smile to my face as I remember sitting in my grandmother’s lap as she read it to me.

I’m passionate about Boston sports.  Going to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox, which I haven’t done in years, gives me the chills every time. I love going to Gillette Stadium to watch my beloved Pats (though Tom Brady lost me when he started modeling Uggs. Jesus.). I’ve been to the Garden, but I’ve never seen the Celtics play there. I wish I could’ve seen a Celts game.

The first concert I ever saw was Frank Sinatra. I took my grandparents. It was the best night of my life. I’ve also seen Baryshnikov dance and Jerry Lewis act on stage. I’m an old soul.

I love Star Wars and Star Trek equally, and that makes me a freak even in the Geek world.

I once lived in the same small town in Connecticut as Stephen King (not at the same time he was living there), and that knowledge for some reason made me really happy.

I’ve never had sex where it felt safe or right or OK in any way. That particular gift was ruined for me when I was 8 years old.

Getting lost in the pages of a book has saved my life on more than one occasion.

I have the ashes of my best friend, Paul, sitting in my office at home because I haven’t been able to bring myself to scatter them yet. But if I ever had the strength, physically and emotionally, to do it, it would be at Yankee Stadium, because he was as big a Yankees fan as I am a Sox fan. Despite that, we loved each other.

The last writing project I was working on before I got too sick to work was a screenplay loosely based on Paul’s life.

I sleep with the light on because the dark absolutely terrifies me. Most nights, in fact, I try to wait for the sun’s ascent before I dare close my eyes and succumb to sleep because I am terrified of what my mind’s eye has in store for me.

I wish I’d had the chance to swim with the dolphins. Also, I’ve never seen palm trees in real life. I love Boston, but Northeast winters are the bane of my existence.

I’m tired. And sick. I need to close my eyes. I pray for a peaceful slumber this night. We’ll see what the sunrise brings…

 

 

 

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Lost

I’m perfectly torn between fleeing from the chimeras I have created and embracing them. It’s the very reason that I’m forever balancing so precariously on this precipice, an abyss on either side, both of which threaten to consume me, no matter which I plunge into.

The whole fabric of my character is laid bare in these Words I set forth, willingly or not. My tremendous hunger for experience and life, my insatiable curiosity, desires, courage, and tenacity, my self-flagellation, self-loathing, my drunkenness, my sobriety, my fears and obsessions, my morbidity and mortality, my desperate loneliness and fear of judgment, my unfathomable boredom, my sense of loss and mourning, and my most desperate desire: that I were able to just Be.

I’m at war with myself. This violent and burning battle that I am at once embroiled in and merely witness to from afar. There appears no egress, no liberation from it all. At least no way that isn’t likely to kill me sooner rather than later.

And it all comes back to the Words.

What’s It Going To Take

She walks along the road with dreams of redemption,

she wanders innocent through the night.

She can only hope for divine intervention;

troubles run too deep, too many to mention.

[Then]

I feel a cold hand making the sign of the cross on my forehead. I hear a familiar voice reciting the Lord’s prayer. He is leaning in close. It’s the former pastor from the church I attended for many years in my youth and young adulthood. He’s giving me last rites. It’s the second time I’ve received them. I try to blink my eyes open and focus on my surroundings, but that requires strength I do not have right now. I’m burning up. I move my hand to try to get his attention. The sudden movement startles him and he jumps. I hadn’t been awake in days. He leans in close as I struggle to say what I need to say. He encourages me not to strain. Still, he leans in to hear me. “Not. Fucking. Yet.” I struggle for breath between each word and then collapse back into the bed. He laughs despite himself. The nurse standing next to him is horrified by my vulgarity before a man of the cloth. I close my eyes again. I will not open them again for 2 more days.

This was several months ago. After another failed attempt at staying sober, I relapsed in an epic way. I had been struggling to stay clean as my fear grew about my declining health. After so many years of self-abuse and going on and off treatment for the HIV, my body was breaking down. My T-cell count was bottoming out, my viral load skyrocketed. I was dealing with several infections, rampant seizures, horrible night sweats. Instead of doing the right thing and checking in to the hospital so the doctors could figure out what the hell to do with me, I sought solace in the warm embrace of my addiction. For days I stayed holed up in some shithole in the city using massive amounts of cocaine and heroin, making myself numb, erasing the fear, the pain, the unknown. At some point it was more than my body could handle. I started convulsing and went into cardiac arrest. I don’t remember it happening, or much about what went on over the next week or so. I know my heart stopped twice and needed to be restarted. I know that my fever was over 104 when I was admitted and that my lungs were near collapse they were so filled with fluid. And I know that the doctors worked their asses off to bring me back.

But the first real, solid memory I have of that first week is waking up to my old minister giving me last rites. I remember feeling his hand on my head; it was cold against my fevered brow. I remember his voice, which was oddly soothing despite the fact that he was preparing me for death. And I remember his laugh when I swore at him. It just kind of came out. I remember feeling angry, not that he was there but rather that I was so close to death and it seemed so beyond my control to do anything about it at that moment. I had put myself there. Again. And I wasn’t ready. Not. Fucking Yet.

When my minister came back after I was more coherent, I apologized for swearing at him and he told me that he laughed because he knew that meant I was fighting. He was right; I was fighting. I didn’t want to die. I just had to figure out how the hell to live.

So I spent some time in the hospital, recovering from the overdose and being treated for various AIDS-related issues and complications. I’m not a good patient. I despise being in the hospital. I feel marked. Disease clings to me. I’m an addict, an AIDS-infected junkie. No matter that there’s no correlation between the two in my particular case; they both define me. And death hangs heavy in the air around me. I am marked. But there was more to me than this once.

In the hospital, this is all I am. Nothing more. I’m a patient. A sick one. A defiant one. A case study. Looking back, I know how tirelessly the doctors and nurses worked to save my sorry life, but being there I feel like they just come in and see my symptoms, they jot things down on their charts, push buttons, stick me with needles. It’s always cold and there’s a sense of sameness. Day in and day out, it’s the same thing. I’m always waiting for my life to end while I’m lying in that bed. It’s terrifying.

I tried to distract myself while I was there. Tried to distract myself with words–my own, other people’s–with music, television, prayer, meditation, anything to escape the physical agony. Sweat would bead on my brow and I had energy to do little more than stay still, afraid to move. My eyes would close despite my struggle to keep them open. I would try to control my breathing. I’d drift off only to wake up moments later to the sound of a primal, guttural scream. The sound came from deep within me, a response to the pain, the fear, the desperation.

I spent several weeks in the hospital. As I started to regain some strength, the old demons started working their way in again. I signed myself out despite the protestations of my doctor. Before long I was back in the city, using again. I ended up back in the hospital with pneumonia not long after. When I got out after treatment for the pneumonia, I was determined to stay sober. And I did just that. For 48 days. Then another relapse at the end of July. This was a short one. A couple of days. Regret and fear immediately set it. I had the sense just a day into it that I would not make it out alive this time if I didn’t stop right then. That probably saved my life since it ended the run quickly.

[Between Then and Now]

Over the past 6 or 7 weeks, I have been fighting as hard as I can to stay clean and to fix some of the damage I’ve done to my body. It’s probably been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done because I know that I don’t have the option of using again if it all gets to be too much. That is no longer a viable escape for me. If I use it will kill me. Simple as that. So I’ve been focusing on restoring my health as much as I can and trying to take things a day at a time.

It’s been frustrating. The medications that I was on started to work. My T-cells started to edge up. But at least one of the meds was destroying my liver, so the doctors had to switch the regimen around. I’m not sure yet whether this new regimen will work and that scares the hell out of me. My heart is enlarged and there’s fluid around it. That makes breathing difficult sometimes. I’ve been having more seizures lately. I still double over several times a day with searing gut pain. I have to go in for a spinal tap, which has been rescheduled several times because I’ve been too sick to have the procedure done.

Still, I am far more afraid at this point of my addiction than I am of AIDS. It’s true my health is in a current state of suck, but the larger problem is that fear and despair have me all in their stabby embrace and I feel stuck in this vicious cycle of poor health, leading to mind-numbing anxiety and depression and anger, leading to a desperate desire to remedy that, and the only solution I’ve ever found easy enough is to get good and dead behind the eyes. When my health is bad I inevitably start thinking about the abuse that resulted in me getting the disease in the first place. It’s a funny thing…and by funny I mean fucked up, not ha-ha: as I lie here contemplating my past, my present, and whether or not I’m even going to get a future, all I can think about is the monster that put me here when he raped me and passed along this virus. The gift that keeps on giving. I had managed for some time now to put those nightmares behind me and now they’re back: the memories, the terror. I close my eyes and all I see is his face. I squeeze my eyes tight against the horror and his face morphs into this horrific beast that tears my flesh and I can almost see in my mind’s eye the very moment he infects me. The moment his abuse becomes my death sentence. He stole my childhood and killed my soul so many years ago and now he’s managing to take the rest of me. I can fight the battles as hard as I’m able: I can stay sober and believe that I deserve a future. I can live well and do good and not let his actions lock me so deep inside myself that I can’t escape. But ultimately, he will win. That’s just the truth. And I am so angry about that I can hardly breathe. Above all, I am sad. I am so devastatingly sad and heartbroken.

Surrender

God knows there have been times over the last few years when I’ve contemplated my own mortality. I’ve been sick before and got myself so messed up on junk that it’s been a real possibility before. But not like this. This time it seems like it’s all out of my hands. I have never before felt so out of control.

A friend asked me a while back if I was dying. I responded to her thusly: I am dying…we all are, really. Life’s just one giant journey toward the end game. But I don’t know if I’m actively dying. There are days I think I could be. There are days I wish I would be. But I don’t know. I just know how bad I feel a lot of the time and how scared I am that I may have caused damage to my body that can’t be undone. I know my viral load is high and my T-cells are low. I know there’s something wrong that’s causing me tremendous pain more often than not. I know I have trouble eating. Trouble walking. Hearing. Focusing. I also know a lot of this is my fault, because I have polluted my already compromised body with toxins for so long that I don’t know how I can expect it to now come back from all that.

I know that I am frustrated and scared. I wake up not knowing if I’m going to be able to get out of bed that day. On the days I am, I take full advantage and try to do as much as I can. On the days I can’t…well, those days are like I’m watching everything through someone else’s eyes. For as slowly as the hours can drag by while I’m confined to my couch, too nauseous or in too much pain to move, it’s like I’m watching everything at the speed of light. I’m watching the world go by and I want to fucking jump in but I can’t.

Existence is so much bigger than ourselves. Humans are egocentric; we think the universe revolves around us. In reality, we are barely measurable in the grand scheme of things. Life is an amazing thing. We have such little time, relatively speaking, and the time we waste is heartbreaking. It breaks my heart anyway.

I believe in a power far greater than us. I know that some people don’t. But it gives me comfort, to believe that there is something beyond this mere existence. I think there’s a reason for everything. For the suffering, the hurt. I have to believe that because otherwise none of it would make any sense. I believe there’s something after and I believe that we go on in some way. That gives me comfort.

I’ve twice been in the presence of death. At the bedside of someone as they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. I’ve felt in a very visceral way the end of a life. It’s a most ominous feeling. To be in the presence of one as they take their last breath, their heart beats their last beat. But I found it oddly peaceful. As devastating as it was, I felt like I was witness to the transition between one journey and another and it made me feel less alone and I pray that it made them feel less alone.

Dying is so taboo. It’s not something people want to talk about. I’m afraid of death. Of dying, more specifically. I don’t want to be alone. That scares me. I don’t think I fear what comes next necessarily. And I do believe there is something. But we humans are so attached to this life we know. The thought of life carrying on without us is mind-boggling. But I will take my last breath some day and life will go on. People everywhere will go about their business completely unaffected by my absence. The people who’ve known me may reflect momentarily on my life and if and how I affected them, but then the sun will set and rise again and the daily routines will continue as always. That’s humbling. But that’s OK.

But in the time I have left there are things I want to do. There just are. Little things, big things. Ordinary things, extraordinary things.

When my best friend died a couple of years ago my life changed in ways I can’t describe. His death changed me forever. Talk about someone who’d had an impact. He had no family to speak of and since he’d named me next-of-kin it fell to me to lay him to rest. It was that process that truly gave me pause about how we honor those that die. I didn’t really know what he wanted, so I improvised. I held a memorial service for him that was meant to honor his memory and give those who knew and loved him a chance to come together in community and mourn.

The service was lovely and I think served its intended purpose. But then I was left with the question of what to do with his remains. I had him cremated. To this day his ashes remain on my mantle piece because it took me a long time to decide what to do with them. The decision weighed heavily on me. The weight of responsibility I felt (and feel) was tremendous. Eventually I decided that I would spread his ashes at Yankee Stadium because he was a huge Yanks fan and I knew that he would love the idea. But that wasn’t enough. It was then that I started writing the screenplay based on his life and I decided that once I was finished with it, I would invite a group of people who loved him and we would take a trip, a pilgrimage, to Yankee Stadium and we would lay him to rest together, in a final act of love for this wonderful man.

Then I relapsed. And I got sick. And the ashes remained on my mantle. And they remain there still. It’s one of the things I’m desperate to do before it’s too late.

So in thinking of all that, I’ve come to contemplate what will happen when I die. Whether it’s in a week, a month, a year…what will happen when I die. I know this: I want to be cremated. I’d like a small memorial service. I’ve been working on the logistics of the service recently. Having planned my friend’s, I know the intricacies involved, from the music that’s played to the words that are spoken. It feels like the final expression of my humanity and I want to get it right. As to what happens after, I don’t know. I struggled for a long time with what to do with my friend’s ashes. I have no idea what I want done with mine. I want them spread out in the word somewhere, but I’ve no idea where. The world has always scared me. I lived in it as much as I could, but my experience with it resulted in a great deal of fear. I don’t want to feel that in death. I want to be free.

[Now]

I’m in the habit of typing out quotes that I like, those that inspire or move or scare me, those that speak to me on some level. Some of the quotes are from famous people: writers, politicians, artists, philosophers. Others are from friends or even random people, said during conversations I overhear in a store or on the street. I type out the quotes on index cards and either file them away for future use (because you never know when a simple quote will be the catalyst for a marathon writing session) or I pin them to the bulletin board beside my desk.

Some of the quotes I currently have pinned up include the following:

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are real too. They live inside us. And sometimes, they win.” –Stephen King

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” –Carl Jung

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” –Ray Bradbury

“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Ernest Hemingway

“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” –J. K. Rowling

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” –Maya Angelou

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” –Oscar Wilde

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” –Mary Anne Radmacher

One quote that I’ve been tossing around my head lately, and which prompted this manic, agitated writing frenzy, is this:

“It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger is on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.” –Robert Downey, Jr.

I’m 50 days clean and sober as of this writing. Considering I awoke at 5:00 this morning with the crushing weight of anxiety stealing the air from my lungs, sober is a major coup right now. I’ve been sitting at my computer for hours, writing furiously, sweating out some cravings, some fear, and some rage. Fifty days and I still shake and feel the yearning. But here’s the thing. I have been drowning in a sea of absinthe and despair for 30 years. But at least it gave me a fair shot of survival. Without the absinthe? Jesus. I shudder to think. It offered me the promise of relief. Even if, as for the last 50 days, I didn’t pick up, I knew it was there if I needed it.

I have no idea, no earthly idea how to live sober. Coping is not exactly among my few marketable skills. Talk about arrested development. My development was arrested before I even entered puberty. At 8, in the squalid basement of my neighbor’s house. Even before that, I suppose, as I experienced the insanity that lie within my own family. Or maybe when I took my first drink at 11? Smoked my first joint at 13? Did my first bump a couple of years later? Tied off for the first time? My point is, it was far earlier than would have been necessary for me to develop any real coping skills. Picking up IS my coping skill.

“It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger is on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.”

I used to like the taste of the gunmetal. I used to LOVE the taste, quite frankly. I remember well the relief I felt the first time I drank, the first time I used. Whether it was the burn and the warmth as the liquid slid down my throat, or the immediate relief as I snorted a line, or the cold needle against my warm skin and the sting as I pushed it into my vein…it all promised relief. But over 30 years I’ve needed more and more, bigger and badder to even come close. And now I have an overwhelming sense of doom about it all. I know I can’t pick up again. It will kill me, of that I am certain.

The circumstances of my very existence have made me afraid of the world and everything in it. Is staying sober going to help that? Is it sobriety or life itself that is my Kobayashi Maru? My no-win scenario? I’m afraid to look too deeply for fear of finding the answer.

What’s it going to take?

It’s nearly fall now. Between being in the hospital and being high, I missed the spring and summer. I guess that’s something I would normally just take for granted, that time. But I’ve had too many close calls, and I know my health is precarious at best. I don’t want to miss any more time. I want to be outside and feel the sun. I want to walk in the rain as the sun sets gently around me. I want to sit by the lake at my grandfather’s cabin, staring out to where the water meets the sky, fishing pole in hand, surrounded by the majestic beauty and serenity of that place. I want to get back to Fenway to see my beloved Sox, to Gillette to see the Pats. I want to read and get lost in the words on the page. I want write, to create, to collaborate, to work, to do all the things I was doing before I wasn’t. Before I fell headlong back in to the abyss of addiction and despair. To live, to dance, and most of all to not be afraid. I want to close my eyes and not dream of shooting up to stop the pain in my body and the noise in my head. I want to live.

Above all, I want to live.

Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive: The Lessons of Dylan Farrow and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

There were two stories in this week’s news cycle that hit home for me: the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, presumably from a heroin overdose, and a letter written by Dylan Farrow about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Woody Allen when she was a child.

While there has been a lot of sympathy and empathy for both Hoffman and Farrow, there has been a fair share of scathing remarks on social media that I just cannot wrap my head around. People suggesting either that Farrow’s accusations aren’t true, or that her timing is suspicious because Allen is currently up for an Academy Award. Grumblings about Hoffman’s death being the result of a choice he made by using drugs. Childhood sexual abuse and addiction are two subjects that I know a little something about. These two recent stories have triggered me into a fury of words and chaos. I’m trying to bring together a string of disjointed thoughts, a wretched chore under the best of circumstances, which this assuredly is not.

Part I: In response to Dylan Farrow

First of all, 7-year-olds don’t lie about sexual abuse. It should never be something they’d know enough about to lie or imagine. That’s the beauty of the whole innocence of childhood thing. Is it possible that the idea was planted in young Dylan’s head by her mother during a contentious divorce? Sure, I suppose it’s possible. But one would hope that Mia Farrow–or any other woman–would never stoop to so low as to plant that kind of belief in the mind of a vulnerable child, knowing full well that once that seed is sown it will grow wildly inside the girl’s soul and destroy her on so many unfathomable levels. I don’t believe Mia Farrow did that. Also, there’s the matter of Woody Allen’s proclivity toward being generally, um, creepy. His predilection for having relationships with inappropriately younger women is well noted. Plus, there’s the Soon-Yi factor. Yes, I realize that Soon-Yi was not Woody’s adopted daughter, but rather Andre Previn’s. I also understand that because Woody and Mia never married, Soon-Yi wasn’t technically considered his stepdaughter. And I know that despite having been in a relationship for years with Mia, living in a state with no “common-law marriage” ruling again speaks to Soon-Yi not being considered any relation to Woody. Technically. But here’s the crux of the problem: In 1992, Mia Farrow discovered explicit nude photos that Woody Allen had taken of her adopted daughter, who was either 19 or 21 at the time (her real age is not known). Allen was 57 at the time…and in a long-term relationship with Mia, the girl’s adopted mother, making him a father figure, legal or not. Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. And let me be clear: pedophiles are creepy. Not all creepy men are pedophiles, but there is an “ick” factor pervasive in both creeps and pedophiles that Woody Allen definitely possesses.

I believe Dylan Farrow. I read the letter she wrote about Woody Allen and I believe that this woman was sexually abused by him when she was a child. I have no vested interest either way. I don’t know any of these people, but I believe it because the pain of the abuse was evident in the words she wrote to the world. I’ve never seen a Woody Allen movie. But the idea that this man continues to be embraced by the film industry is abhorrent to me. What’s even more loathsome to me is the reaction his supporters had to Dylan’s letter and accusations.

Barbara Walters defended him on The View, saying she knows him as a “sensitive and loving and caring” father to his two daughters with Soon-Yi. She suggests that the timing of Dylan’s letter is suspect because Woody Allen is up for an award. Of course, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Barbara, after all, is the same woman who during an interview with Corey Feldman promoting his book Coreyography basically called him a liar when he recounted the sexual abuse he endured at the hands of some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Are you kidding me, lady? People like you are the very reason that victims of childhood sexual abuse remain silent, enshrouded in shame.

And then Stephen King chimed in. He tweeted: “Boy, I’m stumped on that one. I don’t like to think it’s true, and there’s an element of palpable bitchery there, but…”

An element of palpable bitchery. Just let that phrase sink in for a moment. It’s Stephen King’s fancy way of saying there’s an ulterior motive, and whether he came out and said it or not, it implies that he doubts the sincerity of what Dylan wrote.

A few hours later, after some serious backlash, he tweeted this: “Have no opinion on the accusations; hope they’re not true. Probably used the wrong word.”

You think?

Offering further explanation regarding his faux pas, he wrote [regarding his relative naiveté about Twitter]: “Still learning my way around this thing. Mercy, please.”

OK, you’re new to Twitter. But you’re not new to words, right? Or humanity? I’d never suggest to such a wonderful and prolific author as Stephen King that he should stop writing, except regarding this one subject. The publicity wasn’t good for him, but just imagine how it made Dylan feel.

While Dylan’s case (and Corey Feldman’s, for that matter) are unique in that they are drawn out in the public eye, the problem is the same for any child who was ever sexually abused: the fear that people will not believe them. That fear–along with the gut-wrenching shame–keeps them silent, and that silence destroys them from the inside out.

I know this because I was abused, raped and tormented, by a neighbor starting at age 8 and continuing for years. At some point my abuser infected me with HIV. The gift that keeps on giving. I know all too well the shame, the fear, the anger that sexual abuse brings with it. My rapist is not up for an Academy Award. He’s not a rainmaker in Hollyweird. He’s just a guy, living in suburbia, working, paying his bills. But abusing little kids is something my rapist and Woody Allen apparently have in common. A prince of the film industry and a blue-collar commoner. Worlds apart, yet they share a twisted, depraved penchant for abusing little girls.

I read Dylan’s letter and shivered with disgust and rage. Her words were so relatable. She wrote of triggers that awake in her the awful memories of her childhood. She explained that Allen made her lie on her stomach and watch her brother’s toy train circle around its track and he molested her. To this day she has trouble looking at toy trains. For me it’s motorcycles. My abuser had a massive, obnoxiously loud motorcycle and every time I would hear it come up the street a sea of nausea would stir from deep within me. Thirty years later, motorcycles can be a trigger for me still. I tense up and flash back to the fear I felt, knowing what was going to happen to me.

There are other triggers as well. Everyday things that can stir up the terror and the rage. Things that can make the world around me go silent, so still that all I hear is the beating of my own heart and the breath from my lungs coming harder and faster as I struggle to breathe under the weight of my own fear.

My reality was altered so early by abuse and terror that as I shuffled uneasily into adulthood I became a shape shifter, trying desperately to fit into a world I had no business being in. There are times still when I believe I am simply too broken for this life.

So reading Dylan Farrow’s open letter evoked some powerful emotions for me. Her words were painful to read. But reading her words also left me with a sense of awe for this amazingly strong woman. I envy her strength, and I thank her for speaking out when so many of us cannot.

Part II: In response to Philip Seymour Hoffman

I awoke a couple of days ago to a text from a friend telling me about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. She followed that text up with one that read simply: “Are you next?”

It was a fair question. After managing to stay clean and sober for 7 years I relapsed a couple of years ago and have struggled since then to battle those demons.

Hearing the news of Hoffman’s death shook me. I took to the Internet, as one does, and searched for information. He was found in his bathroom, alone, with a needle in his arm. I had only to look down at my own scarred arms to feel his desperation. I swallowed hard with the knowledge that if you are an addict, any high can be your last.

I was a great fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of my favorite movies is Capote, in which he captured the eccentric writer’s character perfectly. I had most recently seen him in The Master. His co-star in that movie was Joaquin Phoenix, the brother of another who’d fallen prey to addiction: River Phoenix. River was my childhood crush, and I remember well coming home from a Halloween party back in 1993 and hearing about his death. I was pretty loaded myself when I heard the news, already years into my own battle with addiction, but I remember being gutted by the news.

Two amazing actors. Both wildly successful, with endless potential and possibilities. Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t take into account race or religion or occupation or economic status. Philip Seymour Hoffman had 23 years of sobriety before he relapsed last year. I had 7 before I succumbed to it again. This is a disease that is not cured. It may go into remission, but is always there and it aches to destroy us.

We’re all well aware of the names of celebrities who’ve succumbed to addiction. John Belushi, Chris Farley, Dana Plato, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Corey Monteith. The list goes on and on. We shake our heads and mourn for these people because it’s a sad situation all the way around, and also because  we feel we’ve lost out in some way. These are people who entertained us, made us laugh, made us cry, made us think. Their loss affects us. Just imagine how their friends and families feel? Now imagine how they feel when they read the atrocious comments from ignorant people who suggest that their loved one died because they were weak junkies who brought this on themselves.

People don’t understand addiction. I get it. It’s a difficult concept to understand when you’re not in the throes of it. But let me be clear: addiction is not a choice. Do you think people choose to destroy their lives, lose their livelihoods, their loved ones, their reputations?

Anyone can be affected by addiction. We know the names of the celebrities. They are written about and mourned and remembered. But there are so many people out there who are hurting, who are dying. Addiction is real and it is a plague among us.

No matter why you pick up that first time, you never think that you will lose control of your life. Taking that first drug may be a choice, but after that it’s out of the hands of the addict. Perhaps experimentation or peer-pressure or sheer boredom is the catalyst. But no matter what, no matter whether you think you have everything under control there is one truth that cannot be denied: There needs not be a catalyst to bring the monster out of his tenuous slumber. If you are an addict you are at risk for relapse. Always.

For me, using was borne from a desperate desire to escape the horror of my childhood. I was 11 when I first discovered that substances could numb the pain I was in. Booze and drugs were never fun for me. They were necessary. They made it possible for me to face each day. They numbed the pain enough for me to function. For so long fear and self-loathing were my masters; drugs wrestled those feelings and won. Drugs made me numb to the torment, and suddenly I became slave to a new master. That high was as necessary as the air in my lungs. Without it I surely would have drown in a sea of sorrow and anguish.

In her book High on Arrival, Mackenzie Phillips writes, “Every junkie’s story has this in common: there are periods of time when the drugs just win. After the seduction of that first high, after the honeymoon when drugs enhance a functioning life–after all that comes submission and demolition.”

If you’re an addict, you’re in a constant fight for your life. Addiction is strong, superhuman and relentless. It wants you dead, and a few years–or a few decades–of sobriety will not diminish its resolve to destroy you. That is its sole purpose, and on that alone it has laser focus.

There are only two possible endings for me: dying or getting clean and sober. I’m not convinced that the latter is possible any more. My body, mind, and soul are so scarred from abuse–by others as well as that I inflicted on myself. How do I live without that which makes life bearable? Then again, this isn’t life, it’s merely existence.

My vision of the world is myopic at best. I expect to be hurt. I expect pain and darkness, and no matter how much light and love I’ve managed to discover in the world, through the love  and support of some wonderful friends I’ve managed to make–despite my being, you know, bat-shit crazy–I still have trouble holding on to it.

The biggest challenge to my recovery and ability to stay sober and live well and fully is my utter inability to love myself. To believe that I deserve more than misery and torment.

The memories of my childhood, they haunt me. And they make me feel wholly inhuman. I think back to when I was 8, to the time before the first time and I wonder what I would have become, what I could have become. Addiction runs in my family. In fact, I have a genetic predisposition toward addiction and general douche-baggery. Alas, I wonder whether I could have broken free of that reality had I not lost that sense of myself at such a tender and vulnerable age. With each breath I take, I mourn the loss of the child I was and the adult I could have been. Would I be more open to love? Would I find it easier to trust? Would I be so scared of the world and everything in it?

I am an addict. Someday I too may succumb to the disease of addiction. Yes, I have AIDS, but to be honest it’s far more likely that addiction will be what takes me from this world. On some level at least. When I’m using I’m not taking care of myself. I come off my meds, I develop AIDS-related complications. That may be what kills me, but addiction will be the fuel that feeds the fire.

And what will be said of me when I draw my last breath? No great loss; one less junkie in the world. That’s true, I suppose. But there’s more to me than that. It’s buried deep and since I am who I am and not a celebrity few will ever know anything about me other than the fact that I am just a junkie and that I brought this on myself. But I am a human being, with feelings and a heart and soul. I’m a lover of words, a voracious reader and a moderately successful writer. I’m a huge fan of baseball and movies and pasta.  I love all genres of music, but my heart belongs to NKOTB. I love to dance and in my healthier days I would dance wildly around my house, music blaring as I dusted and swept and vacuumed. I’m a baseline piano player and a teller of the most juvenile of jokes. One of my favorite things to do is to take a long walk in the warm rain. Watching the sun rise makes me thankful. Watching the full moon at night gives me comfort and evokes in me a sense of wonder and curiosity. I love to laugh and wish to God I could bring myself to do it more often.

You don’t know me. I’m not famous. But I exist, and someday I will cease to. And it will probably be because of addiction. This isn’t how I wanted it. This is not the path I ever imagined myself taking in life. I wanted to live. This is not my choice.

Rest in peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Peace to you, Dylan Farrow.

The One With the Blanket Fort

I’m sitting in my office looking out the window and deep into a sunless sky, as I have been for at least a week now because whatever the hell weather front causes the sun to disappear and me to get all stabby has been stalled on top of us For. Ever. After the long cold winter, I was quite enjoying the beautiful weather Boston has been seeing since late spring (we actually HAD a spring this year, which is rare unto itself). I have been taking advantage of the heat and sunlight and re-energizing on a near daily basis by sitting on my deck for long stretches of time, reading, writing, gazing, dreaming, napping. I’ve even been tending to the garden when my energy and desire to do so happen upon me at once. The garden thus far has produced a copious harvest of…well, so far just strawberries. But all the plants have flowered and are growing wonderfully, and before I know it I’ll be enjoying the fruits (vegetables…HA!) of my labor. Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, squash, zucchini, green beans, corn, and the sweetest watermelon ever..though the damn gophers have been filling their annoying gopher bellies on my watermelon plants this year.

The sun’s heat and light are amazingly healing and soothing. Alas, for the past week or so the sun appears to be on hiatus, at least in these parts, and has been replaced by a dull, gray sky that is neither healing nor soothing. The monotonous gray is broken up only by the menacing black clouds that roll in just before the sky opens up and releases its deluge, soaking everything to near strangulation. Not a warm, gentle rain; the kind that poets write about walking in. No, no, rather a monstrous, thunderous, pelting rain; the kind that you want to hide from. But I’m trying out this new positive approach to life and the shit storms that tend to accompany it. 🙂 So, rather than wallow in the dark recesses into which I would surely wander if not for my newfound positive outlook, I have taken it upon myself to make the best of this sunless, drippy existence.

So today, rather than curse the universe for yet another crappy, dark, damp day, I decided I would practice some self-soothing and find a way to be comfortable while I’m stuck in my house. So, I built this:

blanket fort

A blanket fort!! Because blanket forts? Rule!! Yes, I’m 41, but they are as awesome now as they were when I was 7 and I am completely unapologetic about it! And let me just tell you, this picture does not do my blanket fort justice. I, in fact, built the MOTHER of all blanket forts. I built a blanket mansion! It had like 6 separate rooms, secret entrances and tunnels. It. Was. Awesome. I holed myself up in there for hours this afternoon with a book and lost myself to the innocence and wonder that only a blanket fort can provide. It was my grandmother who taught me to build the perfect blanket fort, and we spent hours of my youth cuddled inside our cotton and down creations, reading and talking and escaping our respective trials and tribulations. It was one of the greatest things she ever taught me and I put it to good use today.

Relapse Redux

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel;
I focus on the pain,
The only thing that’s real.
The needle tears a hole,
The old familiar sting;
Try to kill it all away,
But I remember everything.

–Johnny Cash, “Hurt”

I made a year sober last month. To celebrate, I picked up, overdosed, my heart stopped, and I spent the next several days unconscious, a machine breathing for me. Go big or go home, right?

Relapse. Redux.

My name is M. I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict, and I’m a complete fucking fraud. I sit at this keyboard and I type out these posts and publish them on my blog, cleverly entitled “Sober Like Me,” but the truth is I’m not fucking sober. Yes, I technically had a year of not drinking or using, but in every other way…well, let’s just say the junk was never far from my mind. To truly be sober I would have had to work some kind of program. I would have had to change my thinking. I would have had to adjust how I do things. Instead, while I didn’t pick up, it continued to rule me, body, mind, and soul.

As I was recovering from the stroke from my last overdose 15 months ago, I worked hard physically to regain my strength, my mobility, my speech. I worked the program of physical recovery and it paid off. Eventually I was able to walk without the cane. Later I was able to walk short distances without the leg brace. I mostly regained the use of my hand. My speech improved to the point where it was no longer agonizing to utter the shortest of sentences…for me, or the person trying to decipher what the fuck I was trying to say.

What I didn’t do during this time was deal with my addictions, other than to not use, which I suppose is certainly a step in the right direction. But I can’t remember too many times when I didn’t have it in the back of my mind. Jesus. This pain, the physical and emotional, would be a whole lot easier to tolerate if I could just have a drink. A couple of Xanax maybe? Taking a bump wouldn’t be the end of the world, right? 

The mental battle raged on in my mind. The thing I knew was that if I did have that sip of vodka, that single Xanax, that line of coke…it would lead to a world of hurt that I didn’t even want to fathom. As bad as I thought I was suffering then? That was nothing compared to what would happen if I let it get ahead of me again. And it would kill me. It. Would. Kill. Me.

So guess what happened? It got ahead of me again. I don’t know when it all started to spiral out of control. A couple weeks before? A month? As my 1-year mark edged closer, I could feel myself struggling. I was anxious and depressed. I was in a bad head space. I was consumed with guilt as I thought about the past year of my being sober and what led to it. See, the day before my 1-year anniversary was the 1-year anniversary of my cousin’s death. The cousin who was a heroin addict, the one I set out to find the night before she ended up succumbing to this goddamned disease. The one I found. The one I used with in the hours before her body lost the battle. The one who died in front of me. Of the two of us, the one who should have lived. The one who deserved to live.

I don’t know. I could sit here all day and try to pinpoint the exact moment and reason for this most recent descent into madness and despair. There were some things going on in the days and weeks leading up that probably all played a part in what happened next. I don’t know what the final trigger was. All I know is that on the day I made a year, I picked up. I woke up several days later in the hospital and stayed there until I signed myself out, much to the dismay of my doctor, who I’m pretty sure thinks I’m a lost cause at this point.

So I signed myself out, but instead of going home I stayed in the city, got a room in a hotel, and have been on a steady descent into hell since. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d once again be on the hunt for that which could ease my pain. And it wasn’t.

Over the next, I don’t know, 10 days? 14? I’m not even sure what day it is. Anyway, I managed to numb myself against it all. Minutes have melted into hours. Hours into days. I’ve spent some of that time in this hotel. I’ve spent some of it at the apartment of someone I don’t know, brought there by my old dealer and left to fend for myself until he came back to pick me up. There were a lot of people there. I was surrounded by people. Yet I was utterly alone.  I spent one cold night on the street completely unaware of where the fuck I was. Welcome to addiction.

I’m back at the hotel now. I haven’t used since Sunday. Withdrawals are a whole other level of hell. But this run needs to end. I’m tired. I’m sick. I think I’m ready to leave the city and go home. I miss my dogs. Having them to curl up with while I feel this shitty will help, I think. I hope.

An interesting thing happened today. It requires some back story and I feel like writing it out, so I’ll do my best to make it more coherent and less free association.

I started studying martial arts when I was a kid. I was 11, ironically (or is it coincidentally?…I always fuck those two up). The sexual abuse had basically stopped by then, and that, of course, is when I learned to defend myself. Perfect fucking timing. Anyway, my father was a black belt, and when I was 11 he dragged me to a cookie cutter karate school. I hated it. I really hated it. I took enough beatings in real life; I sure as hell didn’t want to add to it in a dojo three times a week. I wasn’t given a choice, so I sucked it up and did it. Over the next few years I went to a few different schools and learned a couple of different styles. The funny thing was I actually had a natural affinity for it. I was flexible, I could take a hit, and I had pretty good focus. None of this meant anything though until the day I walked into the Martial Arts Academy of Boston* (MAAB) 3 days after my 26th birthday. By this time I had really become interested in the philosophy behind it all, but most of the instructors I’d had never really touched on that.

Chris Walters* was the owner of MAAB. I talked with him for a few minutes before I sat to observe a class. He explained that he taught an eclectic mix of arts, but the main style was an Okinawan karate. I’d never heard of it, but as I sat to watch the class I fell in love with the balance between the fluidity and the rigidity. It was a perfect mix of yin and yang. I signed up that day. For the next dozen or so years I was at the dojo as often as I could be. I rose quickly through the ranks and attained my black belt after 4 years of training. I loved everything about it. I loved being more confident in my ability to at least attempt to protect myself against an attack, but it was more than that. I loved being in the gi (karate uniform). I loved being in bare feet (I’d never wear shoes if I could get away with it). I loved controlling my breathing and my movements. I loved kata, which were so graceful and fluid, but perfectly functional. And I loved sparring. Chris Walters was a hard ass. He never let me (or anyone else) get away with anything. He inspired a confidence in his students that defied explanation. If there was anything we claimed we couldn’t do, he’d kick our ass until we did it 50 times in a row.

One of the first things you learn is a stance that is the core of the training.  It’s the first thing you learn and it’s the stance that takes forever to perfect. If done correctly, your energy is centered downward and an opponent should not, cannot move you from the position, no matter how hard he hits or pushes. At the end of each class we’d have to endure Chris putting us through a test of this stance. We’d line up and he’d give the order for us to get into the stance. Then, one by one, he’d come around and try to make us move. He’d achieve this by pushing on us, hitting or kicking us as hard as he could in the gut, legs, and shoulders, and grabbing then smashing our outstretched fingers in an attempt to throw us off balance. If you blinked, flinched, or moved, you’d be doing push-ups in the corner until you got it right. It’s a physical exercise, of course, but also a mental one. If you lose focus, you’re going to fail. Part of not losing focus meant being able to take a pretty hard hit. We practiced this by partnering with other students and standing on guard while the other student kicked us full force in the gut. We learned to breathe out and tighten up at the point of impact, and amazingly it worked. There was very little pain. Chris used to pull me from class sometimes to demonstrate this move to prospective students. He used me for two reasons: first, I was a girl, so they got to see that even a chick could take a hard hit; second, I was a girl with a killer roundhouse kick and I gave it all I got when it came time to kick him in the stomach. I dreaded this exercise with him only because the guy had a cast iron stomach and I would ultimately come away limping after I unleashed my hardest kick on him.

Anyway. None of this really matters. It’s just to tell you a little about my history as a student of martial arts as a precursor to the following story, which is about my very last day in class. I haven’t been able to practice in quite a while. I miss it. And I often dream about how strong I felt back then, physically and otherwise.

My last night in class was a Friday night, hot and muggy in the training hall and there we were: just another workout, any typical sparring situation. It was my first time back to class in weeks. I had stopped going initially because I had been feeling vaguely unwell. The frequency of the seizures I was having had increased and the severity of the pain in my stomach had intensified. The idea of being in class for several hours had simply not appealed to me. This night, however, I felt ready to come back.

We were all lined up according to belt order and the way it worked out, I had a little time to warm up. I could stretch, bounce around somewhat – these weren’t very close matches. I didn’t have any problem keeping clear of those lower belts’ feints and kicks. It felt good. There was a clean sort of breathlessness in enjoying the give and take of it, the searching, the easy routine of the blocking and the counter-attacks. I was pleasantly fatigued and confident by the time when, in the rotation, I found myself paired with Tommy.

Tommy had been my regular sparring partner for about 4 years. He and I worked well together and never cut one another slack. We had tested together and always challenged each other to bring our best to the table. It was never an easy workout with him, but it was always an honest one. I felt safe on the floor with him, confident that while we go full contact, he is skilled enough not to hurt me. He had that same confidence in me. A year after I started sparring with Tommy, I had a sparring accident with my instructor that left me with a fracture over my left eye, a partial loss of vision, and a broken collar bone. It was a freak accident, and completely my fault for panicking in the middle of a routine move. If not for Tommy, I may never have sparred again. I came back to class 2 days after it happened because I didn’t want to psyche myself out of something I loved so much, but I had a much harder time putting the sparring gloves back on. Tommy’s patience and his gentle insistence helped me over that particular hurdle.

We squared off and bowed to each other, touching gloves to signal our readiness to begin.

My being the lower degree black belt dictates the roles we play. I’m supposed to lead the attack against the higher rank. So I moved in, back straight, reaching out with exploratory little feints, hoping to draw him out to exposing himself to a real attack. I guess we were both feeling good that day. We moved faster and faster together, our arms flashing and smacking agreeably into each other in the air, our legs pistoning out into kicks we guided away from ourselves, torquing our torsos deeply, looking for a way to slip inside each other’s guards.

It’s a hell of a lot of fun, you know. Despite this – and I don’t care who you are – if you go long enough it really does tear into your endurance. Your movements become more deliberate as your wind erodes, and you have to put everything into your decisions. It’s the envelope again, it’s raising your limbs when you really don’t think you can anymore. It’s finding a reason to go on.

I don’t remember how it happened, but we finally ended up in a situation where I’d just finished trying something, some combination or other, and I was looking at him to see what he would do. Tommy came at me then, sliding in low and smooth and utterly fast, faster than I knew how to handle, too fast for me to do anything other than watch him come at me with that side kick of his that slips out to the side and hooks in at the last moment. It did its thing, unwinding like a crafty tight curve ball and I watched it disappear beneath my guard into my side and I just bent over involuntarily, folding up like a piece of heavy machinery done with its job. I stood outside of myself and observed my body falling, and there was nothing I could do about it. I simply watched as the wind left my lungs with a surprised Unnnngggghhh and felt the floor slam into my knees as I hit the ground.

I have to say, it was interesting. The pain didn’t seep in until just after. And it never went away. It was a sharp pain, complaining in my ribs when I breathed or tried to rise from a reclining position.

I’m telling this story because there are things that slip in and surprise you, and later, you think about whether you really should have been taken by surprise. And sometimes you can even watch these things as they happen. Is it useful to remember them? Is it useful to recall the failure and the loss? Is there any point in turning those memories over in your mind? Is there something useful in reliving how you’ve been hurt, even (or especially) those times you did it to yourself?

The easy answers are either “yes” or “no.” But if I refer back to my personal philosophy of thesis and antithesis yielding a more realistic synthesis, I can see that the answer lies somewhere in between. It depends.

I’ll try to pull this thing together with a timeline: The reason I’m telling this story the way I am is because I fell asleep this afternoon and woke up in that way one sometimes will – completely and totally disoriented in looking down to see you’re not where you thought you were. I’d dreamed I was dying and I couldn’t take a breath. I woke with a start and immediately had a seizure. What the hell is happening, I thought.

Oh, I remember thinking when I finally came out of it.

That’s right.

I began to laugh, and I couldn’t stop laughing. God, I had almost, in that peaceful slumber just before reality set in again, I had almost forgotten. The laughter soon turned to heaving sobs.

The memory was sharp in my chest, rising, and when I thought about it there was no surprise in the thing at all.

So, there we are. Today I dreamed I was back in the dojo, performing kata, feeling strong and confident and healthy. It was a good dream.

But now I’m awake and I’m back in my nightmare.

I just want to get through this kick, clear my head, and figure out what the hell I’m going to do next. I have to try to find a way out of this darkness.

I’m sorry I let you down.

Silent Scream…

I’m feeling a little manic right now. Racing heart and all. And a million thoughts clawing their way out. Hopefully they’ll spill onto the page in some relative order, antithetical to the form they currently take, which is to say a chaotic bundle of words with no start or end and seemingly no way to tie them together or to form an intelligible or cohesive goddamn thought.

A moment in time. I’m writing this in a moment in time between what was and will be. In a moment of clarity and complete lucidity and utter and devastating heartache and loneliness. But also in a rare moment of strength, something which has admittedly eluded me these last weeks. Indeed, on every level strength has been elusive. And I have given in and given up and given myself. Given myself over to it, again. And again. And again. But not tonight. Tonight I am clear and the thoughts are maddening and I have to get them out and write and give voice to the thoughts that have had a stranglehold on me of late, to the silent scream that is building to a deafening crescendo.

OK. I just took a deep breath. I should start over. Let me be clear. I’m not in a desperate place tonight. I’m not using. And I’m not experiencing a dark night of the soul. Truly. I don’t blame you if you doubt the sincerity of those sentences. But it’s true. It’s just, I just… I. I’m writing as I’m thinking, or rather, I’m writing, typing, furiously, to try to keep up with the thoughts in my head and I’m writing them exactly as they sound, as they echo, in my skull. It’s a weird way to do it, but it’s calming me, so please bear with me.

It’s been a little over a year since I overdosed and had the stroke. And it’s been a couple of months since my last extended hospital stay. That one took a lot out of me. Physically, I mean. But I want you to know, first and foremost, that I have been fighting like mad to come back. To get as healthy as I possibly can. I’m taking my meds. I have a visiting nurse who comes to the house every other day. And a physical therapist and speech therapist come twice a week. I’m working at this. It’s slow. Painstakingly slow. I’m frustrated as hell. Mostly, I stay in my house. I don’t usually have the energy to do much else. And mostly that’s been OK. I work to get well and in between that, I read and I write. I listen to music. And I watch football. I watch baseball, too. But I can’t talk about that right now because then I’ll get really depressed. God damn Red Sox. Jesus.

For as slow as daily life is moving right now, my mind is spinning at a frenetic pace and everything–my past, my present, my future–is coming at me with blinding fury. I’m trying to keep that all at bay. There’s a lot going on, which I’m sure is what’s precipitating this chaos, but I’m struggling like crazy right now to regain some strength and fight to undo some of the damage I’ve done to my body, and this emotional and spiritual stuff is kicking my ass.

If I manage to sleep, I wake up every morning just waiting for the weight of the day ahead to descend, to crash, down on me. It doesn’t, usually, but still, I wait for it. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the havoc I’ve wreaked on myself these last couple of years.

While I certainly no longer have a death wish, I’m not sure I exactly have a life wish either. And I’m desperate to get that back. I feel like I’ve been deprived at once of both life and death. It’s my own doing, and I know that. It’s just…I don’t know, like being in some weird existential limbo.

Solitude. Isolation. That’s the problem, I think. I mean, I’ve necessarily been tethered to my house, but it’s more than that. Things can quickly go from zero to Oh shit when you’re in a bad head space. The last few weeks have been a struggle for a couple of different reasons. I’m not ready to write it all out yet. I’ve written the things I had to write for now. Through it all, I’ve managed to stay clean, but a couple of times I’ve regressed and started cutting again. It’s a pain I can control and I need some control. I’m ashamed each time I do it, even as I draw the blade across my skin and feel the momentary respite from the emotional anguish as the physical pain overrides it. I know it’s not going to last. I know it’s not the answer. It’s as bad as sticking a needle in my arm for that momentary relief. It’s such fucking addict behavior. I’m still just a goddamn junkie. No matter what I do, it’s always going to beat me in some way. Even if I’m not using. Even if it’s not manifesting in the destructive physical actions, it will continue to eat away at me from the inside. I hate this fucking disease.

For almost a year I’ve worked so hard on my sobriety. The part of myself that I thought I’d exorcised turned out to have been only lying in wait, ready to pounce at the first opportunity. Tonight seems to be that opportunity.

But here’s what I’m hoping is going to get me through this night: I’m writing these words and I know there are people out there who’ll read them who understand just where I am. They’ve been there and made it through to the other side. So who’s to say I can’t too. I guess. Right? Their example gives me hope. And that is as tangible a thing as any on a maddening night like this.