Kensington Blues – A Hardcore Photo Blog

El fly-by
El fly-by (Photo credit: Tim McFarlane)

So a friend of mine told me about this blog called Kensington Blues.  I thought, “hey, I’m from Philly, knew a lot of ‘Kenso’s’ growing up after junior high school, this should be interesting.”

Interesting was an understatement after I saw the photos of addicts on the streets of Kensington.  I forced myself to look into their eyes of quiet desperation.  My eyes darted over the real-life backdrops of littered streets, graffiti covered buildings and the devastating picture of Nichol who looks no older than fourteen.

Heartbreaking.

The truth is no one wants a life on the street, selling their ass to get high or peddling for change to get another fix.  Life just goes that way for some.  I can’t explain it and I know in my heart that any of those women could have been me.  That stark reality is forever at the forefront of my mind when I see a bottle of booze or happen to be within earshot of someone talking about drugs.

It is a life to which no one aspires.  Sometimes it creeps in like a slow, ugly plague.  Other times, it punches you in the throat when you’re thrown out of the house at eighteen or molested by a trusted adult.

Us addicts and alcoholics spent many minutes on our knees, begging God for salvation or death, whichever should come first.

Please, take a look at the blog.  The life of an addict isn’t always some fancy story surrounded by a dysfunctional family in a three bedroom rancher portrayed on ‘Intervention.’  It can be much darker and sadistic.

See for yourself.

Relapse – A Painful Truth

Relapse is a harsh reality in the world of recovery.  There are a million reasons people give for relapse but the number one I hear everywhere I go is this:  RESENTMENT.  Someone who follows my blog sent me a fascinating, short video about relapse.  If you’re interested, watch it.  Profound, it sticks to the point.

Video Infographic by Clarity Way

The disheartening truth is that addicts and alcoholics relapse long before they pick up again.  A switch goes off and the obsession kicks back into the brain.  The obsession leads to the compulsion to drink or drug.  Once the compulsion is acted upon, it is off to the races.

Please, watch the video, visit the website if you wish, and leave your thoughts in the comment section!  I’d love to hear from you.

Have a blessed day.

Happy Summer Solstice!

The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, s...
The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, shortly after sunrise on the summer solstice.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes!  Happy Summer Solstice everyone… today is the 21st day of June 2013.  Being so, I decided I have been way too damn negative and I need to amp up my positive vibes!

While it is extremely easy for us to get into a slump it is just as easy to step out of that dark hole and count the blessings God bestows upon us each day!

Therefore, since it is the first day of summer, I am calling this “New Attitude Day.” No matter how down we get on ourselves sometimes, or how crappy we feel, there is always… always something to be grateful for.  It could be something monumental or something as simple as having toothpaste.  You get the idea…

Today is a gorgeous day here on the East Coast… filled with warm sunshine, cool breezes, chirping birds, a bright blue sky and tons of other things – all reminding me that there is a God…

Amazing things happen when we lose the “poor me” attitude and get grateful!

What are you grateful for today?

Seven Years Sober Today… Wow.

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...
English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Buteo jamaicensis with a mouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep.. I almost had to pinch myself this morning.  I am seven years clean and sober today by the Grace of God and the amazing people he continues to bless me with.   Today (and for the last three days) are days that I feel so great inside… inside.  Someone commented on my Facebook status that I should be proud.  I AM PROUD! 🙂  Holy hell, if you would have known me seven years ago you would have went screaming into the sun, moon, stars… whatever.  The point is, I was an ugly person.. not because of my physical appearance (although this day seven years ago I wasn’t looking too hot) but because of the person I was inside.

I took so many hostages, lied to so many people and used anyone and anything to get what I needed.  It was all about me and fuck everyone else.  Even after my first couple weeks not picking up a drink or a drug, I was still like that.  Getting sober for me was about more than just putting down a substance. It was about learning a new way to live.

Thanks to God, my program and the amazing people who God has put in my life I am living a new way; an easier, softer way which in essence, is hard, gratifying work.

Life and Life Stuff

A copy photograph of the portrait painted by O...
A copy photograph of the portrait painted by Oscar Halling in the late 1860’s of Edgar Allan Poe.

God willing, I will have a 7th Anniversary of being clean and sober on May 26th of this year.  I haven’t been blogging consistently, and I am truly sorry for that.  I have so much stuff going on in terms of kids, other writing obligations and “life stuff.”

But for now, I am going to focus on the writing aspect of my life.  Pull up a chair and a cup of your favorite beverage if you wish.

I started writing around the age of nine or ten I guess.  I remember writing my first book report about “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe in grade school.  I fell in love with the story, and Poe, and looked forward to writing more book reports (yes I was a geeky child)!  I started keeping a diary and wrote silly little stories about my friends inside.

As I grew and matured (using that term loosely), I stopped writing unless it was a letter in school to one of my BFF’s or a boy.

In my early twenties, I actually wrote my first novel.  It is unpublished to this date and only a lone printed, bound copy remains.  Most of that novel was written while drunk because I inherently felt I could only write when I was chemically altered.

Fast forward about four years and I decided to go to college at night as an English Major and wound up switching my major to Behavioral Health with a focus on addiction for the rest of my term.  Ironic.

So I wrote off and on, off and on for a number of years.  I kept many journals and diaries both hard copy and internet bound.  I wrote a lot of poetry.  Dark disturbing words (again always drunk and angry) I wrote steady over the course of a week.  I wrote about 130 poems in those seven days.  That is floating around somewhere as well.

I even had one published in a local newspaper!

Here it is:

Reality and fantasy, truth and lies.

When I’m awake I forget real, and fantasize.

When I speak my mind, I speak it well.

When I talk back, I listen even better.

When I hear other voices, I try to ignore.

Don’t tell me what to say, don’t tell me what to do.

I’m done listening to you; all you speak is tainted.

I’m stained with lies, marked by deceit.

My eyes are wicked, my grin is cold.

You look at me, but you can’t look long.

You’re so weak.  Ha!

Try to tell me you’re strong.

I laugh so loud inside, you can’t hear me.

But I can.

Reality and fantasy, I like to fantasize.

Reality is too much for me, I like my peace.

I like to be alone whenever I can.

So no one hears my whispers as I answer myself…

Again and again.

That is my first official published piece of anything.  I remember how excited I felt.  My mom got a bunch of the papers and framed a copy of the poem for me.  That copy sits on my dresser today and I look at it sometimes because I get caught up in life stuff and my dreams slip away.

So that’s it for me… for now.  Hope everyone is doing well.. maybe you’d like to tell me what is going on in your neck of the woods?  I’d sure like to hear about you!

T – Truth… Speaking My Own

truth by size
truth by size (Photo credit: Will Lion)

I was always a people pleaser.  Always… I couldn’t stand to be disliked so I would keep my feelings buried and wear that plastic smile, laugh that fake laugh and do what it took to gain acceptance.  This is probably the worst thing I have ever done to myself.  This is worse than sleeping with strangers, driving like a maniac or even breaking a window (on purpose).  Because by not speaking my truth, I fortified a wall of lies around my soul that I still chip at today.

I suck at speaking my truth.  I get that knot in my stomach and I get all frazzled and start thinking too much.  That’s when my truth turns into a monster.

Now, while I am an average writer,  I suck at talking.  Seriously.  I hold it in so long that by the time I do get it out (sometimes hours or even days later) it comes out all crazy and illogical.  And honestly, at that point I have lost my focus.  This has plagued me since I was little.

Here goes…

Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a bar & grill.  Ugh, I know.  But his friend (who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years) was playing in a band (with his other long-lost friend) and he just wanted to clear the air with things in the past.  Okay… no biggie.

We talked before we got out of the car and made a pact.  Neither would leave the other under any and all circumstances. Period. If things got hairy or either of us started to feel uncomfortable we would say so and then we would jet. Okay, there is the pact.

That pact lasted about fifteen minutes.  Yeah, he left me sitting at the bar (with my soda and Loaded Nachos) and went to go mingle with all his old friends.  I sat there alone for thirty minutes being ogled by creepy old guys and the ‘shot girl’ asking me three times if I wanted a shot.  My blood pressure shot through the roof the first time she came by with her tray full of booze loaded test tubes. I snapped ‘no’ as I waved my hand.  Still, she came by two more times.  Ugh, again.

So I am trying to see through the wall to locate my boyfriend in the other part of the bar.  “Where the fuck are you?” I am thinking as I get upset.  I can’t see him but hope he is on the other side of that wall.

I finally spot my boyfriend and some hot blonde hanging all over him.  Okay, now I am feeling resentful, angry and jealous.  This is just not fucking going well… at all. My whole ‘fight or flight’ thing is kicking the shit out of me because I am extremely uncomfortable.

I do not belong here.

So finally after all that, he comes back over with one of his friends. I know my face says, ‘you suck’ because, after all, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  His friend apologizes to me for keeping him away. Do I get an apology from my boyfriend? Nope.  All I get is justification and ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’

For the rest of the night, true to form, I stuffed in all inside because I didn’t want to ruin the night or act like an ass in the establishment.  That’s what I used to do back when I was ‘out there.’ I’d act like a total psycho no matter where I was if whoever I was with at the time hit me with a perceived injustice.  But this time I wasn’t drunk or high.  I was just me… raw and real with my emotions.

So I guess I have grown up a little.  Most of my old behaviors didn’t ooze from my pores and I kept my composure for the rest of the night.  I did try to bring how I felt up later on when we got home, but that didn’t go well.

Today I did bring it up.  I had to speak my truth.  I had to say where I was inside and I had to let him know that I was not mad at him, but that he broke his word to me and that hurt.  And it wasn’t a question of me being right.  That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted an apology for him leaving my side; for him breaking the pact we made in the car.  He did apologize (sort of) after (from an outsider’s point of view) a hilarious argument/discussion/fight outside on Sunday.

Do you find it difficult to speak your truth?

S – Sitting – In My Own Crap

The Resentments
The Resentments (Photo credit: Ian Varley)

                Ya know, I kind of do this sometimes.  It leads me nowhere but around in a vicious circle of self-loathing and resentment.  Like, right at this very moment, I am sitting in my own crap.  So I figured, ‘hey, my S Post is due, I should write about this.’

                Here goes…

                Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a bar & grill.  Ugh, I know.  But his friend (who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years) was playing in a band (with his other long-lost friend) and he just wanted to clear the air with things in the past.  Okay… no biggie.

We both talked to each other before we left and made a pact.  Neither would leave the other under any and all circumstances. Period. If things got hairy or either of us started to feel uncomfortable we would say so and then we would jet. Okay, there is the pact.

I know you probably already have an idea of what happened.  Yeah, he left me sitting at the bar (with my soda and Loaded Nachos) and went to go mingle with all his old friends.  I sat there alone for thirty minutes being ogled by creepy old guys and the ‘shot girl’ asking me three times if I wanted a shot.  My blood pressure shot through the roof the first time she came by and I snapped ‘no’ as I waved my hand.  Still, she came by two more times.  Ugh, again.

So I am trying to see through the wall to locate my boyfriend in the other part of the bar.  “Where the fuck are you?” I am thinking as I get upset.  I can’t see him but hope he is on the other side of that wall.

I finally spot my boyfriend and some hot blonde hanging all over him.  Okay, now I am feeling resentful, angry and jealous.  This is just not fucking going well… at all. My whole ‘fight or flight’ thing is kicking the shit out of me because I am extremely uncomfortable.

So finally after all that, he comes back over with one of his friends. I know my face says, ‘you suck’ because, after all, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  His friend apologizes to me for keeping him away.  But do I get an apology from my boyfriend? Nope.  All I get is justification and ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’

For the rest of the night, true to form, I stuffed in all inside because I didn’t want to ruin the night or act like an ass in the establishment.  That’s what I used to do back when I was ‘out there.’ I’d act like a total psycho no matter where I was if whoever I was with at the time hit me with a perceived injustice.  But this time I wasn’t drunk or high.  I was just me… raw and real with my emotions.

By the way, turns out the hot blonde was his friend’s sister.

So I guess I have grown up a little.  My old behaviors didn’t ooze from my pores and I kept my composure for the rest of the night.  I did try to bring how I felt up later on when we got home, but that didn’t go well.  And it’s interesting, because I am still trying to get it out, but having a hard time.  I suck at talking!  maybe I should write a letter…

Are you able to recognize when you ‘sit in your own crap?’

R – Resentment – The Road to Misery

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post was originally called “Righteousness – The Road to Misery” but I changed it last-minute.  Resentment and righteousness go hand in hand, really. After all, I can’t feel resentful if I am not feeling righteous.  Not to mention, resentment is the number one thing that sends alcoholics and addicts back to a drink or drug no matter how long they have been sober.

I stated in an earlier post how angry I was as a child.  This anger brewed inside me as the decades of my life passed. Realistically, anger for me was always resentment.  I resented:

  • my parents
  • my looks
  • being poor
  • perceived wrongs
  • other people

The list went on for pages.  Then, when I got sober, I was still resentful at everyone and everything.  Sure, I was floating on the pink cloud of newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol.  It was great waking up feeling good – not hung over or dope sick.  But I still had all that resentment and it was eating away at my soul like cancer.

After my pink cloud dissipated into the sun of real life, I was still left with all that resentment!  What to do… how about a Fourth Step?  The Fourth Step works and continues to work today.  See, in all my resentment, anger, jealousy.. etc, I played a part!  I couldn’t believe that.  I mean, how the hell could I play a part in the way my ex-husband treated me years ago or any of the other “injustices” dumped on me?

It was simple and with the help of my sponsor I figured it out.  These days, if I feel resentful I kind of sit in it for a little while (I’m a good alcoholic) but then I really have to do a quick inventory, give it to God and let it go.  This makes for happier days.

How do you handle your resentments?

Q – Question Only What Needs Questioning

Derivative of 30px and 30px.Red version of Ima...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was always the “why kid.”  You know, that annoying little brat in the back seat (or at the lunch table) that questions everything.  I mean, I never questioned why the sky was blue or the sun was hot, but I did question a lot of stuff that really spoke for itself.

When I drank and drugged, I questioned why my life sucked so bad.  I questioned why life felt like hell everyday.  I questioned why the hell God kept me around after it was clear I did not want to be alive.  Honestly, my life sucked because I chose for it to suck.  Simple…

What I have learned in these past years is that questioning everything is a ridiculous behavior that I still get caught up in… a lot.  I start to question things when I don’t go to enough meetings.  And the questions I ask, in the car on the way to work (this is when I have my conversations with God) are pretty silly.  They are the kind of questions a teenager would ask their mother or God.

Yeah, I am slowly catching up to my real age.  I think at this point I am like 20 in drug years.

Other things I question are people’s motives or actions.  For example, I might question why my boyfriend did ‘x, y, or z.” But you know what?  It doesn’t really matter because he did whatever it is he did.  My job is to figure out why it makes me feel sad, jealous or angry and go from there.  I should question myself more and question others less.

What do you question?

O – Openness – Frees the Soul

openness
openness (Photo credit: coolnalu)

It is interesting to me how throughout my life I lived some terrible ordeals, dealt with awful people and situations and still, I manage to be open and wear my heart on my sleeve.  I talked about this back in February, you can check that post out at the link.  I do find my honesty and openness freeing.  True, I sometimes lack openness, but those are the moments when I find myself feeling dark and that raging knot grows in my belly.

Now, when I say ‘open,’ I don’t mean telling a woman her dress makes her look fat or that the guy trying to chat me up is an asshole.  I’m talking about openness with myself and others regarding myself.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I have never been true to myself.  I was true to other people, places and things, but the self-loathing I felt each day inhibited me from being honest and open with one of the most important people in my life: me.  It was a vicious game I played and lost each time.  Still, I would go back in, guns blazing with sheer determination to ‘be who they wanted me to be’ no matter the outcome.

A couple of years into sobriety and doing my step work, I began to change.  I spoke up for myself (sometimes) and said ‘no’ when I meant ‘no’ and ‘yes’ when I meant ‘yes.’ Man, did this ever make me feel empowered!

Be Honest

Each time I am faced with a big decision, I no longer handle it alone.  Being honest with myself (above all else) and putting my trust and faith in God has done amazing things for my life.

Are you more open with yourself or other people?