Hello Again

27 February 2019

Hello Again.

I have been absent & I have been for a while now.

I’m not sure why, maybe it was because I thought I had nothing left to say about the recent changes in my life. I thought I had said everything that needed to be said. Or maybe I just really needed to write as I was first recovering because I thought telling the truth and telling it very openly would protect me from ever being in a bad place again. Life doesn’t work that way though and being in bad places is just part of the process. I was wrong, I think, to not trust myself to keep me afloat. “I am strong and I can do hard things,” was something that my substance abuse counselor made me repeat to myself every morning in the faded mirror in my hospital room at rehab. Lately, I’ve been thinking I need to revisit this ritual.

My mind is moving the past few weeks & it has been moving very fast it seems. It has been chewing on a pieces of new ideas that I have come to the surface for me, in my mind, and I’m just now being to truly flesh out what these ideas mean for me and specifically my recovery story.

First, I would like to touch on something that I think is imperative in understanding people who, like myself, have endured severe sexual trauma. I think it is true when others say that the trauma never goes away completely. I used to think the opposite of this. I thought that if I willed it hard enough, suppressed it deep enough, that eventually it would fade into the lowest recesses of my mind, never to be acknowledged again. However, it did not.

Flashbacks are real. They are pieces of the trauma coming to the surface of my mind, to the forefront of my psyche, trying to escape or just trying to make themselves known. These flashbacks come in waves, completely unannounced and sometimes at the most inconvenient of times during the day. Although this makes me think that there really is no convenient time for an image of such a horrific event to come about in your day-to-day life. However, they do. They do appear, these images, and they seem as real as the night it happened, as if you’ve been thrust back to that very moment and you are forced to relive it again. And so the trauma happens, again, without your consent.

There is a repetitive nature to trauma. Once someone is traumatized, it is not uncommon for that person to try to act out this trauma again and again in their head and in their real lives, all in an effort to make sense of it. This is a coping mechanism– a way for a victim to try to rationalize the irrational, to make sense of the non-sensical, and this is true for me. This is something that I did and do often still, sometimes not even realizing it. This can be a disorienting thing and can cause me to feel separate from myself or “not all there.” It is really hard to try to explain these episodes to people who have not experienced them before. In psychological jargon, these episodes are called “disassociation.” I try hard to be aware when this is happening, however it is often out of my hands.

I wanted to talk about this issue because I have encountered other victims of trauma who experience the same thing and are often confused by it. I want others to know that they are not crazy and that they are not alone. And that I am here to talk about anything and everything, if so desired.

Because the mind is a powerful thing.

And sometimes the mind tricks us. At least I know mine does. It tricks me constantly, daily, hourly, into thinking things that are not reality. Because for so long I denied my reality. I denied that I was raped and denied that it occurred multiple times. I also denied that I had a problem with alcohol and drugs, because giving those substances up meant I truly had no power whatsoever over my life and my actions. It also meant I had to face the layers of damage that I thought defined who I was as a person. I thought giving up substances would cause me to be a slave to my trauma.

However that certainly wasn’t the case, as I’ve learned that I was in fact a slave to the bottle and my whole life revolved around how I was going to take the next drink or procure the next bottle of vodka. I had no freedom, because my freedom was locked at the bottom of a bottle. And yet every time I reached the bottom of that bottle, I still couldn’t find it, so I went to the next bottle, and so on and so on.

Secondly, I am often disoriented by current events and the way certain issues are portrayed by the media. Most specifically, I am calling attention to the events that occurred during the Kavanaugh hearings in September of this last year. It is important to say that these events and the way the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was treated by the media was traumatic for me to witness and caused me to confirm that the reason why so many victims do not speak out about their sexual assault is because of fear of how people will react. Dr. Ford received death threats at her home, she received verbal abuse, and she received victim blaming from many individuals of this country.

In witnessing this injustice, I experienced a deep blow to my own insecurities, self-worth, reality, and psyche. And the other women that I know in my life who have experienced sexual assault, also experienced similar feelings and thoughts. This event rippled throughout every person who has ever been sexually assaulted, male or female, in this country. It really blew away my hopes for humanity. However, there was a quote that came to mind and that I try to hold dear to my heart during times like this one. It was written by Walt Whitman, a deeply sensitive man and a true advocate for this great country:

Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;

These come to me days and nights and go from me again,

But they are not the Me myself.

Song of Myself  Walt Whitman

Time moves on, people are hurt, but it is important for me to remind myself, as selfish as people may say it is, to try not to internalize the horrors of today. I must be kind to myself and try as hard as I can to recognize the experiences of other individuals, but to not make them my own, because in essence, unless you yourself have experienced something, you will never know what it truly is like. But I keep my mind and my arms open to the suffering of others, I can allow it to “come to me,” but to also “go from me again.”

This posting may seem like rambling, because it is….. I haven’t sat down and reflected on my thoughts in a while. But I will try to continue to do so, because the feedback that I have been given has connected me to others in ways I could have only dreamed of. I crave connection as an individual and the way I find most useful in connecting with other people is honesty and story telling.

Thank you for reading.

God willing, I will be 23 months sober on the 3rd of March.

 

 

 

Secretive Surveyors

​            “Nowadays almost all man’s improvements, so called, as the building of houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all the large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand! I saw the fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle of the prairie, and some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his bounds, while heaven had taken place around him, and he did not see the angels going to and fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the midst of paradise. I looked again, and saw him standing in the middle of a boggy, stygian fen, surrounded by devils, and he had found his bounds without a doubt, three little stones, where a stake had been driven, and looking nearer, I saw that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor”– Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

~ ~ ~

​            Emerging from the protective vessel that is my four-wheel drive crossover, I am immediately greeted by the crisp, cool morning air: a reprieve from the harsh temperatures of summer. The inviting smell of the many juniper trees that reside in this landscape engulfs my nose. It is a familiar scent that reminds me of the trips my family and I used to take up to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire when we were still living on the east coast of this country and I was still a young girl. Now, in the western state of Utah, I am engaging in a different kind of forestry. Instead of the paper birches, the sugar maples, and the blue spruces of New Hampshire, I encounter lodge-pole pines, rocky mountain junipers, and the abundant quaking aspen during my explorations of the Wasatch Mountain range.

​            The Wasatch has become my new home. The first time I visited these mountains I was only 8 years old. My family and I had come here on a vacation in the month of February. My mother had recently decided that we, as a family, were all going to learn how to ski. We had been skiing only twice before, at King Pine Mountain in New Hampshire. We were inexperienced. My dad was a particular eye sore on the hill with his decision to wear a pair of L.L.Bean flannel-lined jeans the first day on the slopes. We probably looked like the stereotypical East Coast family that decided to come to one of the steepest ski areas in the United States to learn how to ski. I am thankful though, despite how embarrassing we looked, that we did, because this place grew on me and eventually became a special one, embedding its charm deep into the recesses of my mind.

​            On this particular September morning the aspens seem like confetti, their many leaves shaking and flowing with the cold breeze, a million pieces of green, yellow, and even crimson red paper flying through the air, a clear sign that the season is in a state of transition, the warm summer sun fading into autumn, the trees mimicking this fade. A feeling of joy wells up inside me upon realizing this change, for I know that it won’t be long until I am on a chairlift again. I picture myself slowing moving up the mountain in unbearable anticipation of immediately going down again—on my own accord, sliding across the snow and hearing the comforting crunch under my skis. However, I can’t help but think that this change is premature. I am used to the mountains waiting until the end of the month of September to start undergoing this yearly transition. So I think to myself, why now?

​            Of course this is just an example of myself wanting to exert my own level of control over something much greater than I. The earth will change when it wants to, when it needs to, despite my being ready for it or not. I am unable to control this change in the earth, just like I am unable to control that change within myself. I too, have begun to change recently. I have changed from a frightened college freshman into a confident and unwavering young woman. I have begun to heal, to shed, to fling off all of the unnecessary worries and concerns I once had as a new college student. I don’t care if I have no idea what I’m doing anymore, I will find my way eventually.

~ ~ ~

​            Silver Lake, the area I chose for this early morning excursion, is a medium-sized lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon along the Wasatch Front, only 45 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. I walk along the boardwalk, towards the body of water, thinking it’s strange that someone would place a boardwalk in such a beautiful area. The wooden bridges look artificial, implanted into the natural scenery.

​            I decided to come here on this particular day due to a recommendation of a friend. We were talking the night before in her little underground apartment, both of us curled up like cats on her couch, about the notion of healing. We talked about how crucial it is for us as women to heal continually throughout our lives—that the world may be a bit harder for us to navigate through because of our assigned gender and that we must care for ourselves during this particularly difficult time. A misogynist was in the White House. My friend recounted to me how she felt the day after election night— how she felt like there were hands clasped around her throat, squeezing and tightening very slowly throughout the entire day. She cried in the bathroom of her work a few times that day. “Walking in the woods is the only thing that makes me feel better,” she told me.

​            A few days ago, while I was walking in this same spot, I came upon a man and woman dressed in their wedding attire, taking pictures, I assume, for their wedding invitations. I was careful to not disturb their pictures but quickly found that I could not pass by because the woman’s long train on her dress covered the entire wooden walkway. The stark image of the white, lacy, delicate fabric of her dress against the rustic and scratched wooden walkway appeared strange. It looked so deeply out of place. The woman even seemed angry when I asked them if they would mind moving it, shooting me a glare of disdain. Nevertheless I pressed on, thinking to myself, “It’s bad luck for him to see you in it before the big day.”

​            Why must we fulfill our desire as curious human beings to place a boardwalk in the middle of these wetlands? Why not instead create a walkway along the edge of the lake on a trail? Doesn’t this wooden construction disturb the organisms that live in this place? All these questions begin to fill my mind. And it was then that I began to think that we crave satisfaction—that it is an innate desire for us to have instant gratification, that our needs trump the needs of the other living things on this planet, and that altering the land is just one of the ways in which we feed this need. I realized that we are acting as if we have authority over this land, the land that we imagine as “untouched.”

I realized that we are not unlike, Thoreau’s devilish surveyors.

~ ~ ~

​            The Oxford English Dictionary defines a surveyor as “one who has the oversight or superintendence of a person or thing; an overseer, a supervisor.” But this definition has ignored a crucial implication of the word. As Henry David Thoreau implies, a surveyor may have a formidable and even frightening nature. A surveyor is intimidating. A surveyor has a level of power that one might equate to that of a god. They can exercise their will over the thing they supervise, deciding upon a whim, what that thing will and will not do. A surveyor has authority.

​            Human beings commonly act as surveyors. We behave in an authoritarian way with nature, as Thoreau so starkly describes above, especially when trying to maintain bounds of private land. This aggressive behavior, this relationship with the land is seen as negative to ecologists and conservationists, and notably to Thoreau himself. The phrase, “the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor,” is an intriguing one, for Thoreau is equating the act of surveying to the Devil himself. He sees surveying as ignorance of the benefits of the beauty of untouched land. The imagery of the “angels going to and fro,” “that heaven had taken place around him” in the natural landscape, shows how Thoreau views human’s acting as surveyors. He believes that this lack of awareness that he attributes to his fellows is cause for concern. We are disrupting the Wild. This behavior must change.

​            Thoreau’s concept of Wild is nothing unprecedented, although for his time it might have been. He notes that the Wild, over time, is increasingly at stake. He believes “the building of houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all the large trees” is what is causing the Wild to decline. He adds that this alteration only “makes [the Wild] more and more tame and cheap,” insinuating that land’s value is only monetary.

​            Historically, human beings have desired to conquer much of this earth. Land acquisition was highly valued and the worth of a person was determined by how much land you owned and whether or not you could own land at all. The first Europeans to settle the New World came because land was abundant and ready for the taking—of course, Native Americans were wrongfully ignored and their claim was viewed as nonexistent. Native Americans’ relationship with the earth is something to strive for. They respected Mother Nature in ways the Europeans thought was savage. The irony is almost too much to comprehend.

​            The Europeans undoubtedly took it upon themselves to be the surveyors of this New World. Disregarding all creatures that had been here, they dug postholes, built fences, built houses, cut down trees, and eventually created concrete cities. Humans are the self-proclaimed surveyors of any and all “untouched” land that has ever existed. They measure out the bounds and measure out the value of this land and then sell it accordingly. There is no such thing as private property. Every piece of “private” property belongs to the state, that is, the respective country whose own bounds just so happen to include that piece of land.

~ ~ ~

​            However, during this particular walk on this particular September morning, I realize that these creatures, the organisms and the life that lives in the “untouched” parts of this country, act as surveyors as well.

​            I approach a small cove on the south end of the lake and begin to hear some motion in the water to my side. Upon my inquiry, I see that groups of ducks—mallards to be exact—are nibbling on some vegetation at the surface of the water. Breakfast, I think to myself. They appear to be undeterred by my presence, not wasting an ounce of energy to meet my gaze. Too engulfed in their morning meal, the mallards make little progress in their movements in an effort, I imagine, to get every little piece of nutrient from the plume of algae. They are surveyors, sifting through the vegetation, picking apart the pieces, and taking the beneficial bites for themselves. However, their efforts are not in vain, for their meal seems to clean the top of the water, clearing it of the algae and allowing the sun to provide light for plants beneath the surface. In my head, I can hear the voice of a particularly influential science teacher from my years in high school at Rowland Hall, saying, “here we have an example of the ducks providing themselves with nutrients while also benefitting the larger vegetation community, a symbiosis of sorts.” That word—symbiosis—causes my mind to feel full, a signal that the action I am witnessing is more important than one would initially think. Moving on with my excursion, I listen carefully in search of other animals to observe, of other examples of symbiosis.

​            I pick up on a faint buzzing sound near a densely packed area of wildflowers. The last of the season, I think to myself. Their fat, round bodies bobbing up and down from the tops of the buds. I wonder how the delicate stalks of the flowers can hold such a seemingly dense insect without failure. Some of the buds seem wilted to me, but the bees pay no mind to these differences, their only motive to transfer pollen from one to another. Funny how the bees have no prejudices towards the flowers, pay no mind to the fact that some look less attractive than the others. This activity never ceases to amaze me, the capacity for busyness of such a small organism. How do they move with such determination? Their movement almost appears to be mindless, as they are concerned only with their life having meaning in the task of keeping the ecosystem in check. I come to learn after some research that many of these bees are in fact solitary, living on their own instead of in colonies, but still managing to work together to accomplish this task. I am reminded of one of my favorite novels, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. When I was younger, I used to pretend I was the main character Lilly. I related to her in a special way. I felt like the loss she felt from not having a mother was something I felt at times as well, since my mother was absent periodically through my childhood.

​            One of the largest themes throughout the book is the notion of freedom and confinement. There is a spectrum, I believe, with these concepts—absolute freedom and autonomy on one side and absolute confinement and entrapment on the other. The Boatwright sisters all symbolize different places on the spectrum, sometime their positions moving from one end to the other. I think bees symbolize a mix of the two concepts; for they are free in the sense that they seem as if they could fly wherever they wish but are also confined in their loyalties to the pollen from flowers. I used to be deathly afraid of bees when I was little. I thought their only aim was to sting any person they came across, even if they didn’t necessarily want to. I thought they’d just buzz along and sting, sting, sting, because God gave them stingers. As I grew older, I got over that fear, but I think I had this idea of them because bees symbolized to me what I thought of myself: that I was a little person who went through life stinging others and not really understanding why. I’ve come to love the plump little creatures. So much so that I’ve even considered getting a tattoo of a bee on my arm to symbolize my own stinging personality at times.

​            These bees are surveyors, taking inventory of the flowers that they come upon and changing their pathway to be most effective in making their rounds. However, this form of symbiosis with the land merits this surveying because both bee and flower benefit from the action. I remember the example of bee and flower being on a test in the 4th grade for symbiotic relationships.

​            Moving on with my walk, I begin to make my way away from the lake, following the trail south into a dense patch of woods. The tart and earthy smell of the algae keeps me connected to the lake on this digression into the trees. I begin to walk at a steadier pace because the shade of the trees made the air even chillier than it was by the water. My light puffy sweater isn’t doing its job, and my faster movement is in an effort to keep my comfort at a certain level—understanding that comfort is often a relative term when being in the Wild.

​            As I continue through the denser forestry, I began to focus my gaze on the gaps between the many aspen trees. These gaps looked like small slivers of space, not readily noticed if you weren’t entirely looking at them. The trees stood together so closely, I recalled a moment in class when someone made a remark about how aspens are indeed one unit, deeply rooted and all connected in an underground root system. Suddenly, this thought was disrupted by the faint sound of rustling in the patch of dense brush to my right, uphill. I stopped to listen closer. To my enjoyment I spotted the culprit of this rustling: a mother deer and her fawn who was no bigger than a dog and about as tall as a Labrador retriever. They were foraging through the brush, surveying the vegetation, all the while nibbling on branches of tiny berries. I stood, motionless, savoring this moment. The soft, golden light from the morning sun was ever so slightly pouring down through the trees above. Here was an instance where “heaven had taken place” and I could “see the angels going to and fro,” dancing around these delicate creatures in an effort to preserve every ounce of divinity that their vessels held. Every crane of their necks to nibble the plump, blush-red berries from the stalks of the bushes had an intimacy that I can only describe as being otherworldly. Here, in this secluded area of forest, only yards away from the man-made wooden boardwalk, was an instance of pure Wild.

​            I stood there a long while, watching these godly creatures make their rounds on the morning berry bushes. Then, as I dared to step closer, I stepped on a piece of dry wood, which made a particularly dull noise that nevertheless reached their ears. They stopped, their previously flowing movements, looked at me with a gaze that could stop every motion in the whole world, and darted faster than I had ever known possible into the greater abyss of green. I continued to stand in my place for a bit longer, in the unrealistic hopes that they might return.

​​            Finally understanding that moments end as quickly as they begin, I pressed on through the landscape. I was nearing the end of this forest portion of my walk when I realized that large nuts were dropping heavily from the trees above. I knew then that I had stepped into the realm of a group of chipmunks, interrupting their morning gathering of nuts. The heavy objects were plopping on the dense ground that was still damp from the morning dew. I chuckled to myself, as these creatures tend to have a humorous effect on us. The business of these small rodents, the fast movements, leaping from tree to tree, branch to branch, filled me with such pleasure that I had not known I had—another wondrous example of surveyors in the Wild. My capacity to understand this landscape was widening with every step I took, for I am but a visitor in this space.

~ ~ ~

​            When my family and I first moved to Salt Lake City from Baltimore, we were astonished to behold the amount of Wild land we thought Utah had to offer. I remember sitting on the plane looking down on the picturesque landscape as we approached. The land, there was so much of it! Miles and miles it seemed, of untouched mountainous land—a drastic difference from the familiar scenery of the East coast, where people seemed to take up every last inch of free space. “People live on top of one another,” my mother would often say and it did indeed feel that way. That feeling only amplified when we realized how much free space we saw that Utah was hiding, almost as if we had been cheated all those years.

​            The land struck me as dangerous, though, at first. It intimidated me to think that there was so much distance between cities, between towns. The gaps of untouched wilderness seemed to be larger than what was comfortable for my small, naive mind—especially down in southern Utah. My discomfort was a result of my realization just how small and insignificant I truly was in comparison to the world. There was so much land, so many organisms that lived in it, and I was just one simple girl. My problems, my actions, and my life were meaningless. Why should I ever worry about anything at all?

​            When I realized after living in the Salt Lake area for a few years that people actually venture out into this wilderness quite often, I was astonished. I could not believe that people willingly put their lives, their safety, on hold while they experienced what the Wild had to offer. Soon I began to understand that they didn’t put their lives on hold when they did this but actually were living a great deal more when they were outdoors. My mind began to open to the idea that the Wild is nothing to fear—that in fact, it is something to revere, to experience wholeheartedly, and to live.

​            However, I also began to learn through my Wild excursions that there is a code, a set of ethical rules that should be followed when crossing the threshold between civilization and Wild. And not everyone adheres to these rules.

~ ~ ~

​            On my walk, I witnessed examples of this negative behavior we humans have with the land—the boardwalk and the wedding couple only being a few. I did come across, however, another group of people who were exhibiting ways in which we disrupt this sense of Wild.

​            Towards the end of this walk, I began to pick up on sounds of a group of about four to five people—the exact number I do not know—coming up behind me. They were laughing, shrieking almost, about nothing in particular. The sounds were most likely caused by enjoyment of one another’s company and I did not initially feel contempt towards them. However, as time passed and my strides became faster and faster, I realized that I was unconsciously trying to gain distance on them in the hopes that their shrieks would cease to disturb the silence I experienced earlier in my walk.

​            They were indeed sullying my experience of the Wild in that moment, thus in a sense robbing me of my reason for walking in the first place. I had not come to this spot to be rushed in my movements. I had come seeking silence, seeking solitude. These individuals, unknowingly of course, had ruined it. Here is an instance in which my own authority, my own dominating personality comes to the forefront of my being. I myself, do not own this portion of land. It is not my private property. So why should I feel this arrogance and superiority towards others who may be enjoying it?

​            As I approached my car, the vessel that transports me to and from inside spaces, for these are mostly the only spaces in which I exist, I came upon a singular sign that read the following phrase: “Please stay on the trail, switchback shortcutting destroys the vegetation.” I couldn’t help but feel upset and noticed that I had audibly scoffed, for the idea that returned to my mind was the one that had entered it at the beginning of my walk, “Well what about the fucking wooden walkway?” That thing is no trail. It is an eyesore in the middle of heaven.

~ ~ ~

 

The Doldrums

May 30th, 2018

“The Doldrums”

Maritime Usage- noun, refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sailing ships for periods of days or weeks.

Colloquial usage- adj, a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness, or stagnation.

I have been away for quite some time.

I have been in the doldrums.

Consistency is something that I have struggled with since childhood. Sticking to my commitments was the one thing I was constantly badgered for by my parents. They had the right idea, of course, because if I wasn’t made aware of my lack of commitment at a young age, I believe I would be far more delusional in my young adulthood than I am now.

This “writing thing,” I’ve realized, is much more psychologically draining than I previously thought. The things I usually write about- my own struggles and experience- are not always easy to conjure up. Occasionally I drift away from my awareness and willingness to be open and vulnerable about how I’m feeling or what it is that’s truly going on inside my head. However, it has been through recent change and growth that I’ve realized I’ve been yearning to write again.

So here is (hopefully) the first of many more posts to come in the near future.

There is one thing I’d like to divulge at the present moment….

For the past three years or so I’ve been taking a regular regiment of SSRIs: depression and anxiety medication. While I was in treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Houston, my psychiatrist spent the majority of my time there trying to stabilize my medication. I was put on many different kinds, as she was trying to figure out the best formula for my sporadic brain. When I left there, I left with three prescriptions: one for Fluoxetine, one for Bupropion, and another for Mirtazapine. That was one year ago.

Recently I made an executive decision to stop taking these medications.

I believe they were right for me at the time of my discharge from the hospital. But as my life has drastically changed in the past year, I no longer believe they are right for me. Ultimately, the bulk of my depression and suicidal ideation was the result of my addiction to alcohol and benzodiazepines. Now that I’ve been successful is cutting those two substances out of my life, I feel as if I can try more natural solutions to aid in benefitting my moods. Things like physical exercise in the form of biking and yoga, mental exercise in the form of 12 step meetings, and slow but promising changes in diet and nutrition.

I have yet to understand the progress of these changes since it has not been long that I’ve implemented these things in my life. But I’m hoping to discuss the progress (or lack there of) in my coming posts.

As always, thank you to all of you that have supported me in my recovery thus far and to all of you who constantly give me praise for the things I have disclosed in my writing and on this blog. I’m surrounded by so much love & light. To the positive people in my life (you know who you are), you deserve all the credit in the world.

I am blessed. Thank you. xx

Six Red Roses

SIX RED ROSES

By: Ally Askew

Even when I was small, I was unafraid of the possibility of pain. I would ride my bike fast down the steep hills of my neighborhood, I would jump from log to log in the marshes, I would scrape the scabs from my wounds just to see the way the blood would run down my leg, a red river on my porcelain skin. I liked the way it trickled, pretty splotches of deep red. I would never clean myself up. I displayed the pain proudly on my skin, but Mama said this wasn’t lady-like. She’d grab a wet towel and I’d feel sad as I watched her wipe away my battle scars. But I also knew I’d find more trouble to get into tomorrow.

Mama said I was always looking for trouble.

~~~~~

Mommy had a red rose in her hand. She gave it to me. She told me it reminded her of me. Mommy said to keep that red rose close to my heart. She said it would make me feel better again. Mommy said I would be okay here. Mommy said I was safe.

~~~~~

Trouble was fun. It made my stomach feel fuzzy. It made my knees go weak. I liked the way my head felt when I knew I was about to do something sour. I think it made the lights go on inside my brain. It made me feel like I had secrets, like I had something valuable to hold for myself. I felt tied to the secrets, tied to all those sour things I’d done. All those times I did things I wasn’t ‘supposed to, my bones would shake and I’d be hollering inside my chest. My heart would feel full. My veins would feel thick. Nothing could stop me, no one could tell me no.

I wasn’t afraid of pain, even when I was small.

~~~~~

Mommy brought another red rose to me. She placed it on top of the one before. She said this one reminded her of the color of my hair. Mommy said it would make me smile again. She said I would be okay here. Mommy said I was loved.

~~~~~

When I got bigger, I noticed the type of pain I sought had grown alongside me too. Accidental scrapes turned to self-inflicted cuts. Internal hollers turned to hateful spits to Mama. She said my words hurt like burns. My scars from falling when I was small began to morph and change from the new ones I’d chosen to place on top. Sometimes I would trace the lines that adorned my wrists with the end of my fingertip, pressing ever so slightly into my soft, cool skin. Hurting myself made it easier for others to hurt me. Instead of hitting others, others began to hit me.

The first “other” that hit me was a lover.

~~~~~

Mommy brought a third red rose to me. She placed it on top of the ones before. She said this rose reminded her of the color of my skin when she first held me in her arms. Mommy said it would make me need her again. She said I would be okay here. Mommy said I was quiet.

~~~~~

I was 19 and he was 30. The difference in our age made it seem more real to me. He told me I was special and I believed him. He spent a lot of time worrying about me— wondering where I was, who I was with, and what I’d been doing. I thought it was because he loved me. I was on his mind every waking second and he was on mine. I liked to make him mad—the creases along his forehead that would form made my veins run hot. His temper was his weapon of seduction and I needed it like a junkie needs crack. I thought every strike he laid upon my cheek was his way of saying just how much he loved me.

Because you’re the meanest to the ones you love most, right?

~~~~~

Mommy brought a fourth rose to me. She placed it on top of the ones before. She said this rose reminded her of the way I smelled. Mommy said it would make me feel her again. She said I would be okay here. Mommy said I was sleepy.

~~~~~

Soon my belly began to swell and I knew she was inside me: a baby girl—my baby girl. I felt her kicking and felt her heart beat with mine. She was strong and she would wiggly every which way. This wasn’t a surprise, I knew she was wanting to meet me. I was waiting to meet her, but I began to be afraid of the possibility of him beating me to it. So I did something I’d learned how to do when I was small and looking for trouble.

I ran from him.

~~~~~

Mommy brought a fifth red rose to me. She placed it on top of the four before. She said this rose reminded her of the way my hair curled on top of my head, like petals folded over each other. Mommy said it would make me smile again. She said I would be okay here. Mommy said I was happy.

~~~~~

I ran from place to place, belly growing and time escaping. From town to town I worked as a waitress, barkeep, anything that would supply me with some semblance of control. Women would congratulate me on my shifts, asking when I was due and how much longer I had. It made me feel special and I hadn’t felt special since I was small. One day, while I was eating some scraps I found off a vacant table at the diner I was working at, I felt something running down my leg. I looked down to see a familiar red river running down my porcelain skin.

I screamed.

~~~~~

Mommy brought no rose to me. She placed no rose on top of the four before. She didn’t say what the rose reminded her of. Mommy didn’t say it would make me feel or do anything. She didn’t say I would be okay here. Mommy didn’t say.

Reflection: “Agnostic”

I have always understood the importance of spirituality and a higher power in respect to sobriety. Although, I feel as if sometimes I struggle to truly and genuinely connect with a Power greater than myself. I was brought up with no sense of religion. I had heard about God from my friends in school who were religious and thus adopted their conceptions. I remember asking my parents why we didn’t go to church and their response was that we just didn’t, but if I wanted to go they would allow me to do so. I didn’t end up going. I had a white gold cross that my Grandma gave me when I was born, though I thought because I did not go to church, that I was not worthy to wear it. Sometimes I would go into my mother’s jewelry box just to look and hold it. I would secretly and quietly pray to God before bedtime when my tiny existence seemed to be too much for me to bare on my own. Though, I never told anyone outright that I believed in a God.

There are times during my week when I feel some, if not all, of the feelings described in a piece of 12-step literature:

“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to anyone…”

When this happens I isolate completely. My isolation habits are insidious. I know when I’m doing it, yet fear of rejection, embarrassment, and ridicule keep me from overcoming it. I often find myself alone and then begin to feel like something is wrong with me because I’m most comfortable when I’m alone. Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself, that I’m not more naturally social. Tonight I’ve realized that I still have many expectations of myself that may not be entirely realistic.

My God made me the way I am for a reason. I must begin to trust that She did not forget about me. I must begin to give in completely and allow Her to guide me. I am fundamentally a logical person, almost always thinking in concrete ways. If I want to be relieved of my self destructive behavior, thoughts, and feelings, I must ask Her to relieve me. When I am alone, I must begin to realize that She is always with me. My tendency to dwell in my own immiseration is a direct symptom of not consciously connecting with Her. I must retrain the way my brain operates, challenge the logical side of my mind and maintain contact with my spiritual side, just like I did all those years ago every night before bedtime.

 

Also, I am ten months sober today…..

Doughnut Emoji & ❤️

Monday January 22nd, 2018

I just sent my sponsor a text with a doughnut emoji and a heart.

I saw her tonight at my weekly Monday meeting of my 12-step program. That’s where I met her and where I asked her to be my sponsor. She’s tough and I needed someone who would be brutally honest with me- someone who wouldn’t sugar coat shit, just tell me things straight. She messaged me tonight after the meeting to tell me that we needed to discuss what I had shared. I talked about what a bitter bitch I was for feeling left out of the party that everyone my age seemed to be engaging in. She said what I shared was brave and totally normal. She’s awesome. So in response to her kind message, I said thank you & okay and signed off with a doughnut emoji and a heart because I suck at receiving compliments, especially when it comes to what I’ve done so far in my sobriety. I need to work on that……

But anyways, tonight’s meeting seemed to revolve around the topic of resentment. Resentment is a dangerous thing in the life of an alcoholic. It can linger within you for years, lying dormant until shit hits the fan and only then will it make itself known. It’s something that alcoholics will go out and drink over, because unresolved issues and feelings are great excuses to go out and get loaded, right!? That one (or many) childhood trauma(s) that you never got over, that one failed relationship that totally wasn’t your fault, the guy who cut you off on I-15 yesterday, or the fact that the pretty girl sitting two tables down from you at a restaurant can drink a glass of wine without turning into the exorcist…. These are all great reasons to get hammered! Or at least, that’s what my alcoholic brain tells me. Constantly.

Sometimes I think to myself, “Wow, this really blows. I have to go through my whole life sober. I’ll never be able to drink like a proper lady, I won’t be able to toast Champaign at my wedding, and I won’t have those fun nights out on the town anymore. What’s the point of life if you can’t live a little and drink a little!?”

The only solution that my brilliant, crazy, alcoholic, ridged brain can come up with for this problem I find myself in is this:

Get the fuck over it & get the fuck over yourself. There are so many worse things.

So what that I can’t get shitfaced and make a fool out of myself on weekends (although in reality, I’d be doing this almost every night of the week), so what that I can’t be hungover every morning and puke into the trash can I would so strategically put right beside my bed, so what I can’t do reckless and utterly ridiculous shit whilst wasted, so what I can’t drain my back account on poison that burns my throat and gives me terrible inhibitions, so what I can’t wake up in the morning and regret whatever fucked up thing I did the night before, so what I can’t ruin my life and destroy every relationship I had with everyone that’s important, so what I can’t wake up in strange places anymore or can’t remember what I said to you or can’t make it to class or can’t get out of bed or can’t look at myself in the mirror or can’t sleep at night, so what, so what, SO WHAT!?

The fact of the matter is that this is my reality. I’m an alcoholic. There’s nothing on this magical, good, green planet that can change that. It is what is it, I am what I am and if that means I can’t drink alcohol like a normal person? Well shit, I think I’ll still live…. in fact, I know I will. Because drinking would only lead me to one thing and that would be my death.

I think I need a doughnut now…..

Keener Than a Dog’s Nose

A flash fiction piece I wrote for my fiction writing class

 

Keener Than a Dog’s Nose

Ally Askew

       I was eleven when I first saw a dead body. Gramma hadn’t been feeling well and had been in bed for days. One morning, I went up to her room to wake her for breakfast. I shook her senseless, trying to get her to wake up, but then I realized it. She was dead and I was standing in the same room as a dead person.

It didn’t particularly affect me. I didn’t feel too upset about it because Gramma wasn’t a very pleasant woman and Mama didn’t seem to care much for her neither. They were always fighting back and forth. I think Mama only made us live with her because we needed a house to stay in. I guess she was tired of living out of our car. One summer day, while we were driving down a bumpy road in a northern part of Alabama, Mama suddenly pulled over on the shoulder. I was sitting shotgun, like I always had since I can remember even though I wasn’t ‘supposed to on account of the law and everything, and looked over at her. She was just sitting there silent, staring off into the distance it seemed, until finally she said, “Lets go for a visit to Grams.”

“You mean your mama?” I replied puzzled and she nodded her head.

You see, I had never met the woman let alone heard Mama speak her name. I knew Mama had her own Mama, just like she was mine, but I didn’t know where she lived or what she looked like. Mama never talked about her before. The next day we arrived at her place in Laurel, Mississippi and stayed ever since. That was about 19 years ago, I was 8 years old. But the first time I ever saw a dead body, I was only 11.

The day Gramma died I still went to school. I relished in telling all my classmates about the traumatic morning I just had. They all said I was lying my teeth rotten. My best friend Cali told me Suzy Wellsner, the most insipid girl in class, said that if I couldn’t prove it, then it wasn’t true. I marched right up to her at recess and told her off.

“I’ll prove it, you twit!” I yelled. “Meet me by the ole’ tire swing down by Pointy Creek after school and I’ll have a picture for yah!”

After school let out I hopped on my cherry red bike with a banana seat that Mama had bought me the year before and sped home. When I got there I noticed the funeral car was still parked in our driveway. I burst through the front door to find Mama and the young funeral boy sitting on the couch drinking coffee. I guess they’d been sitting there ever since I left that morning.

“Mama I need to borrow your Polaroid for a minute!” I said exasperated.

She barely turned her head to look at me but gave a lil’ nod. So I raced to get her camera from up in her room and then flew down the stairs and out the front door. I ran to the funeral car and very quickly opened the back trunk. Gramma was in there for sure, I could still smell the musty perfume she’d drench her wrinkly body in daily. She was lying there, very orderly-like, in the trunk with a white sheet over her corpse. I quickly snapped a photo but then heard Suzy Wellsner’s annoying voice in my head blurt out, “That could be anybody laying under the sheet! You didn’t prove anything!” So I cautiously lifted the sheet and snapped a picture of the body with my eyes closed. Both pictures were still developing in my pocket as I rode my bike faster than a speedin’ bullet to Pointy Creek. I hadn’t even bothered to look at the second picture before handing it over to Suzy and the other kids that were gathered by the tire swing. But it didn’t matter; the look on Suzy’s face said everything. She dropped the photo on the ground, quickly got on her bike, and without a word, rode off home. I reckon she knew I was telling the truth.

The other kids took their turn looking at the photo, all equally disgusted until they were satisfied and left too. So there I was, finally able to see the picture myself. I picked it up out of the dirt and took a good look. In the picture, Gramma’s body was laying there, under the white sheet in the back of the funeral car’s trunk, but to my surprise there was something different about her. Her feet were about ten times the size they normally were, and the skin that was visible in the picture was a deep shade of pink. I didn’t quite remember her looking like this earlier that morning, but then I remembered that the her bedding was pulled high around her head when I went to wake her up, so I wouldn’t have noticed her feet or her skin neither. I suddenly got a deep pain in my stomach and felt hot bile rising up my throat.

I ended up emptying my stomach right there by Pointy Creek. I felt like there was something wrong with the way Gramma looked. I had never seen a dead person before, but it looked like Gramma had died from something different than old age, like Mama had told me. I had a feeling that Gramma died a horrible, slow, painful way. The grave expression on her lifeless face said more than I cared to know. I would later find out my intuition was keener than a dog’s nose that afternoon.

When I got home, I brushed my mouth out as many times as I could count, but for some reason the taste of vomit wouldn’t leave.