We All Scream for Ice Cream

So my daughter N was diagnosed as pre-diabetic this week. The kidlet is not taking it well. But this I mean she’s been in a snot-covered, sobbing heap in her bed for the last two days, alternately fighting with me and begging me to take her to Culvers for the vanilla custard cone she’s been craving since it happened. I’ve stood my ground and not taken her, trying to explain that turning to food for comfort in this situation is the exact self-sabotage that got her into this situation in the first place, but she’s having none of it.

As a food addict for years, it’s painful to watch. I don’t have easy answers for her. I “solved” my food addiction by turning to a restrictive eating disorder. Now she watches me not eat, and says she wishes she had my willpower. I tell her not to wish that upon herself. The insides of my brain, when it comes to food, are not pretty places.  The obsession, guilt, circular thinking, anxiety, all focused around what I will eat, won’t eat, should eat, shouldn’t eat, can eat, can’t eat, did eat, didn’t eat, how much I weigh, did I lose weight, how can I lose weight, did I exercise, should I take diet pills, will they help, what will help, and most importantly when will I ever be skinny enough to feel comfortable enough in my own skin – all of this thinking is utterly exhausting. I wouldn’t wish it on my most loathed adversary, much less my daughter.

Yet, N already suffers from an eating disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, which is often overlooked and when not is often considered “less than” – less serious, less dangerous, less glamorous – the one I have.  After all, there’s no just released Netflix special on BED (and don’t even get me started on “To The Bone.”)  It’s frustrating and angering, because I see the aftermath in the way N views herself every damn day.  Her self-esteem is in the toilet. She cries when I take her swimsuit shopping. SHE WISHES SHE WAS ANOREXIC.  Her worth is so tied up in how she views her physical body.

This is not how I raised her, my little raging intersectional feminist activist.  She can quote MLK and Malcolm X, she loves Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter and primate retirement and body positivity and a million other social justice causes.  And she cries herself to sleep at night because she hates herself.  It’s a hard thing to watch as a parent, especially when my parent-guilt-o-meter is already on TILT for everything I’ve put her through the last year’s with my active addiction, ED, E’s death, “divorce” from S, moving, etc. I know all I can do now is love her and keep showing her I’m trying to learn to love myself.  Just keep showing her how to follow her own creek. Still it feels like pitifully little.

Sometimes I wish I could just buy her the damn ice cream.

Follow the Creek

So I’m at a reunion for one of the many treatment facilities I’ve attended in the last several years. One of the staff here has been generously open about his recovery journey of over 30 years. Today he shared a story from his past that really touched me.  

One of the elders from his native faith tradition, during a time in which he was experiencing deep personal struggle, told him cryptically, to simply “Follow the Creek.”.   That’s it, no elaboration. As was tradition in his faith, he knew not to question the advice given, but simply to ponder it for at least three days and three nights.  But after the elapsed time, he felt exasperated by the cryptic advice, and returned to the elder in frustration, begging for further wisdom.  The elder relented, with the following explanation.
The Creek always wanders – sometimes East, sometimes West. It never follows a straight path. But it unfailingly heads towards it’s destination. This is like your recovery. You may wander, you may veer off course in one direction or another at times. But if you continue to Follow the Creek, you can rest assured that you will never truly be lost, and eventually you will reach your destination. 

Friends, I’ve veered off course so many times in the past year, and lately I’ve become afraid that I’ve lost sight I’ve my destination.  But today, listening to this story, I realized something. I’m still FOLLOWING THE CREEK.  

Yes, I’m struggling to eat right now. That’s the damned truth of it. I’m lucky if I eat what amounts to half a meal a day at this point. I’m fighting with my kid every day, still trying to reassert my role as parent after the chaos of active addiction over the past year.  I’m fighting off a deep depression, feeling defeated by circumstances that feel out of my control.

But I haven’t given in. I’m sober. I’m working my steps. I’m at this reunion, trying to reconnect to what made me go to eating disorder treatment in the first place. I’m trying to use all the tools I’ve learned in my decades of therapy to remind myself that my mood is maleable and I CAN choose happiness.  I’m trying to honor E’s life, my lovely little spitfire, by creating a life full of… Well, LIFE.

So, for this moment, I’m grateful. Grateful that I was placed in this moment in time, to hear this story, and receive this reminder.  Thank the Universe I’m still following my Creek. Wherever it’s leading. 

Let the journey begin.

Painting Over the Wallpaper

2011.  That’s the last time you heard from me.  It’s gonna be hard to put things into a nutshell for you, but I’m gonna try to get you up to speed.  For the sake of context I’ve left my original “Wallpaper” post from 2010 alive on this blog – but all other posts from 2010/2011 have been deleted.  They are no longer relevant to my life today.  Alright, buckle up…

When you last heard from me, I was living in a poly family in a small town in the Midwest.  Yeah, that crashed and burned.  All for the best really.  Our other partners moved out and S and I ended up sharing the house with my daughter N for several years as a happy little family.  So happy in fact, that we decided to add to our little family.  In October of 2011, I conceived with the help of a known donor so that we could expand our circle.  But in December, I suffered a miscarriage.  This was perhaps one of the most devastating experiences of my adult life up until that point. I sank into a deep depression, and dove into the bottle of prescription Vicodin they prescribed me for pain after my D&C procedure.  I didn’t fully come out of the depression for almost a three years.  I also got incredibly ill, first with pneumonia, then with chronic pain, and finally with fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I ended up filing for first Short Term Disability, then Long Term, and finally Social Security.  I’m still on it to this day.

Meanwhile, we sold the house and moved back to the city.  S struggled with her own depression after losing our son.  I dove further and further down the rabbit hole of prescription pill addiction.  My mother, who was dying of COPD and under hospice care, eventually had to move in with us.  I began pilfering her medication to feed my habit.  Finally, in October 2014, the shit hit the fan.  When talking to my then therapist, I dropped the bomb that I was stealing mom’s meds.  I was immediately sent to rehab.  It was the best decision at the time.  With the help of AA, I stayed sober for 19 months.

But… other behaviors began rearing their ugly heads almost immediately.  The opiate withdrawals made it almost impossible to eat.  And I remembered how much I liked the feeling of not eating and drastic weight loss that had followed my gastric bypass in 2008.  But this time I took it waaaaaay further. I dropped 75 pounds, and fast.  (I had gained a bit back in my battle with depression so I had it to lose, but still…)  I ended up for the next 19 months in and out of treatment for atypical anorexia.  (Meaning I was too fat to be ACTUALLY anorexic, but I had all the other characteristics.)  I was clean and sober, but battling for my life on other fronts.  And all the while S was at home caring for my dying mother and my daughter N.  Not happy making for a fiancée.

While I was in treatment at an ED (Eating Disorder) clinic in 2015, I met E.  I was drawn to her right away.  She was mercurial to say the least.  Laughing and bouncing off the walls one minute, with flashes of hot anger the next.  She was in recovery from heroin addiction, and we became fast friends.  After I left the EDC, much to everyone’s surprise and some’s chagrin, we stayed friends. (Lots of treatment friendships don’t last.)  Months later, she relapsed and called S and I for help getting out of the situation with her abusive, using boyfriend.  I was in treatment at the time in St. Louis, but S immediately drove the three hours to get her, and moved her into our living room.

When I returned home a month later, we spent every minute together.  It didn’t take long for us to fall in love.  S and I were still in an open/poly relationship, so everything was above-board.  What WASN’T above-board was the fact that E and I started shooting up together just a month after we started dating.  It started with just the hint of a suggestion, and I was off to the races.  Neither of us were eating, and we were using IV crack cocaine nearly every day, and heroin when we could score it.  Speedballs.  It didn’t take long before we both OD’d and everything came out in the open.  S and N were devastated.  And the second time it happened, E ended up on life support for two days.  That’s when we swore off heroin for good.  So I went to detox, and E went to Intensive Out Patient (IOP).  And eventually we went back to using crack.  We just couldn’t get clean altogether.  The drugs were what fueled our relationship, our sex life, everything.  Like true addicts, we thought we could keep using if we just did the “safer” drugs.

E was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  This made our relationship pretty tumultuous, and she struggled with loads of insecurity and jealousy.  Eventually, E became intensely fearful that I would marry S and drop her (we were set to be married on 10/15/16) and I became so fearful of losing E and the lifestyle that we were living, that I broke off the engagement with S.  That was the last straw with the long-suffering S – she moved out weeks later.  Without S around as my reality check and anchor, E and I went nuclear in our drug use.  The days and nights blurred together.  We both began having seizures regularly.  Not that that stopped us.   I barely managed to get N fed and to school everyday.  I used all day when she was gone and all night when she was in bed.  I hustled in ways I’m ashamed to admit to this day to earn money.  I stole to keep food on the table because all cash went to drugs.  We were about to lose our apartment because we could no longer afford it without S.  My life hit bottom.

Then in July of 2016, I received a call from a stranger, informing me that she was my step-sister and that my father had passed away suddenly from a suspected heart attack.  And that he had left me a SIZEABLE inheritance.  I was in shock. Problems solved!  I scrambled the next three weeks to get all the paperwork Ps and Qs in order.  And on August 30th, I had cash in my hand.  That night, we bought $600 worth of crack to celebrate.  And that night E overdosed.  And died.

And a part of me died with her.

It’s 11 month later.  I wish I could say I got clean after E died, but I didn’t.  I buried my pain in drugs for another 8 months.  I ended up almost dying myself after a couple grand mal seizures and a bout with sepsis.  If I never see the inside of a hospital again it will be too soon.

But – I JUST CELEBRATED 90 DAYS CLEAN LAST WEEK.  This time I am working the program of NA.  I wouldn’t be clean without it.  I attend 3-5 meetings a week, and I have a great sponsor, D, who I call pretty much daily.  I am living in a small 2 bedroom apartment with N.  S and I are good friends again, but things are still strained sometimes.  I hurt her pretty badly.  My best friend in the program, H, just moved into the building next door, and she’s who I spend most of my days with nowadays.  We keep each other on the straight and narrow.  N and I have a little chihuahua/terrier mix named JoJo.  He’s an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) for N, who needs it after being through all the trauma she’s been through in the last few years – divorce, death, moving around, etc.   I go to ED/trauma therapy with a woman named A twice a week, and I do adjunct addiction and art therapy every few weeks as well.  A is encouraging/supporting me through the process of writing the first draft of my memoir.  The updating of this blog is a part of that process – which I’m sure you’ll hear more about in coming days.

I have a lot of gratitude these days.  There’s a lot of good happening in my life.  I’m applying for a mortgage – hell, I may not get it cuz I messed things up pretty good financially there for a while, but I’m lucky that I even have a shot.  I’m trying to take a trip to Costa Rica with N.  I have the money to pay my bills.  I have clean and sober friends, a fully-paid-off car, a roof over my head, food in my fridge.  I still struggle with the ED.  I rarely eat more than one meal a day.  It’s something A and I are working on.  I miss E every damned day.  Right now I’m planning a Memorial Celebration of Life for the one year anniversary of her passing, August 31st.  It’s got me pretty depressed, to be honest.  But I need to honor her memory.  And maybe finally find some closure now that I’m doing it clean.  I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in the future as well.

The truth is, I’m doing alright. And that’s a damned miracle.

Well, that’s it folks, that’s enough, and more than enough.  Thanks for sticking in this long.  I’ll be back with some actual (and much shorter) blog posts in the future.

Peace to you, friends.