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Shotgun of Strength

I hate to generalize, but I’m going to anyway: addicts love to justify, excuse, and rationalize their behavior. I know because I am one – now sober for over twenty years from cocaine.

My first marriage was to an addict.

I am, once again, married to an addict.

See a pattern? Yeah, me, too. Embarrassingly enough, it took almost a year of therapy for that tidbit to reveal itself. I digress.

My current husband is a recovering sex addict, and he’s been sober for almost a year. My first husband, who was also my high school sweetheart, was a cokehead like me; he’s deceased from a motorcycle accident 15 years ago.

I met “Senior” when I was 15 and he was 16 and we were normal, regular teens. We smoked a little weed, drank beer on the weekend, and every so often did a hit or two of acid or mescaline. No big deal when I grew up in the eighties.

This snippet comes from a time when I justified, excused, and rationalized like the addict I was and, instead of hitting rock bottom, embraced denial.

Senior and I shared a dilapidated house in a crappy part of town with Anthony. It wasn’t much of a home, but at the age of 18, it was mine and Senior’s and Anthony’s. Anthony was our roommate and a drug dealer, which was quite convenient, contributing to our demise and fueling our addiction.

Senior and I had an agreement: I would never, ever go to college high and he would never, ever go to work high. It made us feel as though we were in control of our drug use. Rationalization at its best.
Senior and I abided by this agreement throughout our drug use days. Somehow it made us feel superior to the people around us.

Trust me: we weren’t.

We managed to fit in more drug use in those short hours after school and work every single day than most other users did all week. Yet we managed to delude ourselves we were the “smart” ones of the bunch.

Anthony’s agreement with us was that he’d only deal weed and coke. He could stay with us for free as long as he supplied us with the drugs we wanted, as often as we wanted. It worked out great for all three of us for quite some time.

I was used to watching random people come in and out of my house. Some would stay for minutes, others for days. I recall some staying for weeks at a time.

However, the “vibe” of the house began to change. It became more Anthony’s house than ours. His paranoia was increasing: he had deadbolts installed on his bedroom door, he placed baby monitors outside doorways, and the smell coming from bedroom – well, it was unfamiliar to Senior and me. We tried to talk to him about it, but Anthony was high ALL of the time now. A strange, scary kind of high we couldn’t place.

I came home from school one day and saw Anthony’s door was actually open for a change, but noticed he had one of the living room chairs blocking the doorway into his bedroom. I figured he had someone in there with him getting high and proceeded into the bathroom adjacent to his room.

As I sat on the toilet, I noticed three small holes in the wall. It took a second or two for me to register that the holes actually went all the way through the bathroom wall and into Anthony’s room. I could see into his room through the damn holes!!

My gut knotted. Something wasn’t right.

I realized I still hadn’t heard anything from his room since I walked in.

Holes in the wall.


Could he be dead?

I peered through the holes and saw him on his bed, smoking a cigarette.

Whew, not dead.

Okay, then why the holes? They were definitely bullet holes.

I thought to myself, “Whatever it was, it’s obviously over, and besides, I can see he’s got coke on his desk.” I flushed the toilet, washed my hands and stepped outside the bathroom door.

Anthony was already inside his doorway, feet away from me as I stepped into the hallway. He had moved that quickly from his bed to the doorway – it took only seconds.

“Hey Ant, got a line?” I asked him, leaning over the green velvet living room chair that was keeping us apart. My eyes drank in his room and I could see where one of bullets ended up, in his closet door, on the other side of the room.

I glanced at the desk beside me, saw the coke, and the addict in me screamed. I looked back at Anthony, waiting not so patiently for an answer.

Fuck the bullet holes, I really wanted to push him and the chair out of my way and get to that mirror with the pile of blow on it and start shoving it up my nose! He’d probably been partying all day!

I’d been stuck in class all day, now it was my turn to party. I felt myself get twitchy from having to wait. The feeling of “it’s there, but not there, so close but so far.” If you’re an addict, you know it, and it’s awful.

I glanced back to the desk, back to Anthony, and I saw the pistol he used in the bathroom.
I figured he was waiting for me to ask so I said, “Why are there bullet holes in the bathroom, Ant?”

“Fucking cockroaches. I hate ‘em.”

He reached over and grabbed the mirror off the desk and slid off a line for me. Finally! My body exhaled and tensed all at once. I felt my pulse quicken with anticipation.

I didn’t care about the cockroaches. They were a dime a dozen where we lived. Why he would decide to shoot them that day, in our bathroom, didn’t even strike me as being unusual.

I just wanted my fix, which he had in his hand still. I was getting pretty pissed by now. Just give me the damn line already! I just needed one to help get me started with my homework.

“What the hell Anthony, gimme a line!” I raised my voice.

“I will.” He taunted me with the cocaine. He passed the mirror before me. Right under my nose. Inches from my face. If I breathed too hard, or God forbid, if I sneezed, we were both screwed. Hundreds of dollars lost! It’d be at least an hour, maybe even two hours before it’d be replaced.

As he passed the mirror by my face I saw him move with his other hand but my eyes were glued to the coke. He put the mirror back on the desk and the knot in my stomach moved into my throat. The anticipation of getting high has turned into the fear of something unknown.

Anthony continued, “You’ll get your coke when you tell me where it is. Where did you put it?”
My mind began to race. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. My eyes scanned the room again.

There were two empty packets, not one. Why two? Think!!

There was also a needle on the floor by the bed with a tie-off. Okay. Someone had been shooting up in here. But shooting up what? Coke? Heroin?

Had Anthony started shooting up now, too? Was the second packet for heroin or did he do so much coke he’s just that fucked up in the head right now?

My eyes went back to the pistol on the desk. I’d been around guns for a long time. I’d been taught how to use them, so I wasn’t afraid to shoot someone if I had to. I didn’t think so, anyway. But, he was blocking me, and so was the chair.

Suddenly, Anthony screamed at the top of his lungs. Asking me where it is, where did I put it? Did I sell it? Did I use it? I was petrified (and remember thinking, even in that state, that I was glad I had just used the bathroom). It was then that he pulled the shotgun from the side of the chair, hidden beside the desk.

It was Senior’s .30-.30, his favorite hunting rifle. Anthony put the barrel of the rifle to my forehead (oddly, it wasn’t cold like I thought it would be) and he began yelling the same questions over and over again.

Instead of embracing the fear that was growing within me, I felt a sense of absolute calm settle over me. I knew with every fiber of my being that Anthony was not going to shoot me. He was not the one that would end my life. Not that day.

In a calm and rational voice, while looking him in the eyes (and his eyes were purely crazed), I told him, “I don’t have anything of yours. Think about it, Anthony, I haven’t been here all day. I just got home from school. Put the gun down and I’ll help you look for it.”

Sure enough, he did.

I found out later that he had been speedballing for weeks.

Unfortunately, this incident was not my rock bottom. I merely went into denial for another year. However, it made me realize I have the ability to reach inside me and find inner strength, even when times seem dismal and scary and beyond hope.

I have reflected much upon this incident. Although it occurred during a dark period in my life, it still brings me strength. I reach back to that person with the shotgun to her forehead quite often and remember who I am at my inner core.


Life After Death

I come from a large blended family.

I have six siblings- four brothers and two sisters. I’m especially close to two brothers.

November 19, 2017 will always be the hardest day of my entire life. You see, early that morning, I got a text from my mom asking me to call her; it was very important. I called her immediately, expecting that my grandfather, who is already in terrible shape, had fallen again or had another stroke.

When I called, the first words out of my mouth were, “Is it Pappaw?”

It wasn’t. It was Eli, my youngest brother, just 25.

He had committed suicide in the middle of the night.

I screamed for hours it seemed. I couldn’t stop screaming.

My baby brother, and one of my biggest supporters, had chosen to end his life with no signs of depression or struggle beforehand. I cried myself into one of the worst migraines of my life.

I was in the ER that evening seeking treatment.

As if that earth-shattering day wasn’t enough, the next day was just as bad.

My dad, 66 years old, had gone to the ER complaining of back pain and unable to walk. I mean, his legs wouldn’t support him or move, not that it hurt to walk. After scans and exams, we found out that he had stage four cancer. His bones were riddled with cancer.

He went straight from the ER to radiation.

Now, this is a double whammy. Not only am I reeling and numb from Eli’s loss, but now I have to hold myself together to support Dad. He’d always been my greatest supporter, it was my turn to help him.

I immediately began packing bags to go to his side. After a cluster of idiotic errors and misjudgments by the doctors, he was finally given an accurate diagnosis regarding the type of cancer and I stayed with him as much as I could during the next two months.

Dad died January 30, 2018.

Since losing these men that helped shape who I am, I’m barely breathing some days.

There are times when it all seems like a nightmare. There are times when I’m drowning in tears. I’ll never be the same. I don’t know how to live in a world without them. As crazy as it sounds, I’m reluctant to seek grief counseling. I’m worried I’ll hurt more if I’m forced to talk about it. I am on an antidepressant that takes the edge off this utter depression.

I distract myself with movies and books to get through the day.

He’s Leaving On A Jet Plane

I read a book the other day about a soldier’s account of his time in Iraq. It told of his missions and what he saw and what went through his mind while he was overseas. It was interesting, it was scary, it was so sad. It gave me an inside look, a first-hand account of what my husband went through in the year he was gone. It made me wonder. How would my book read, my first hand account of being a mom on the homefront, holding down the fort? Maybe it would be an interesting read, maybe it would flop. I really couldn’t tell you, but I figured I would try.

I believe Dan got word that he was on alert in February of 2004. That was a scary day, we spent the day at families houses telling them the news. I held it together, mostly, I was really okay until his sister asked me “How are you holding up?” I lost it! I cried because I was mad, I was hurt, I couldn’t believe it. But we still didn’t know when he could leave, it could be tomorrow, next week or next month, we just did not know and that was probably the scariest part. Would I have time to tell him goodbye. Would the kids understand what was happening? What was I going to do? I spent a lot of time crying, always in private, sometimes to friends, but mostly into my pillow. I had to stay strong, I had to make everyone think I was going to be OK, when really I wasn’t sure. I mean,  how could I be?

We never really talked about him not coming home, but it was always on my mind. I didn’t think I could handle that, being a widow at 24!

I tried not to think about it, but it was always there… just under the surface.

Finally word came.

The official orders, I am sure I still have them saved on my computer somewhere, along with every email and IM conversation we had while he was gone. He was going to leave on Veteran’s Day 2004. Kinda fitting right? We prepared as best as we could. And bright and early on November 11th we headed out to the unit to tell our soldier, my husband, my kids father, goodbye – perhaps for the last time. All of our best friends and our families were there. It was a tense atmosphere, so much crying from everyone around, talking, laughing, and just a lot of quiet thinking.

Finally the time came for the soldiers to line up and get on the buses that would take them to the airport. There were hugs, and kisses and more tears. Then we all got into our cars and headed to the airport to watch them board the plane.

It was so very cold out. But I don’t remember being cold. We all gathered at the fence at the air strip. Dan was on every single news station. One of my favorite moments, I have on tape somewhere, Dan leans through the fence and kissed Nick goodbye. The whole QC got to see that. That was right after Nick proclaimed that Daddy had to take Blankie with him so he would not be scared, which brought tears to everyone around. Instead we tore a piece of Blankie off and Dan put it in his breast pocket, where it stayed until he came home. We said some more goodbyes and tried to hug through a fence, which was incredibly awkward by the way. Then they had to board the plane. We stood and waved, all of us until the door closed. I was still not ready to say goodbye so I didn’t get back in the car, I stood on a small hill and just watched, soon I was flanked on either side by my mother and my mother in law. That too was caught on video and aired on local television. And we waved, somewhere there’s pictures of us waving until the plane looks like just a speck of dust that is on a photograph. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t remember driving home. I don’t remember going to sleep that night. I probably cried. I don’t remember but that’s probably a good thing.

I remember waiting, a lot of waiting.

Waiting for mail, waiting for phone calls, waiting for the computer to beep that he was online and of course waiting for the call saying he was coming home.

But those are all stories for another day.

A Letter To Someone Who Stopped Talking To Me – Dear Mum, Love Martin

The following post is from a series called ” A letter to someone who stopped talking to me.” The posts from this series will appear on Stigma Fighters and Bank Back Together.

Dear Mum.

It’s been a while since I wrote you. Six months. What was the last thing I sent you? A postcard, probably. Someone – one of your sisters, my aunts – told me a while back that my letters to you went unopened. Hence the postcards: nothing for you to open (or not open), a pretty picture for you to look at, and less aching white space for me to fill each week. It made it easier – for me at least. Nothing too heavy. News from up here in the north. Family. Friends. Work. Then best wishes for your well-being and family down there.

Phone calls from me ceased when you could no longer take them. When you could no longer remain awake at the phone or even, perhaps, know who I was. You used to love texting, before illness took its final hold, but the special large screen phone we got you so you could take and make calls from your room languished unused and uncharged.

I cherish the times I came to visit with you, on my own or with Pam. The time I took you to Washington Wildfowl Trust to see the ducks. Holding your hand. Sitting with you in your room while you slept. I remember the moment (not precisely when but how it felt) when the question “When will I go down next?” shifted into the knowledge I would not.

And then the phone call telling me you’d gone. A week or two of uncertainty, doubt, fear. Then plans to be made. Hotel rooms and a hire car. Routes. What to wear. That was okay. I’m good with that stuff.

And then there I was, back in Liverpool one last time. Squeezed in the back of the funeral car. Your face staring at me all the way to the church from the framed photo they’d propped at the back of the hearse. Carrying your coffin – no weight at all really – up the aisle of the church I remembered so well. The priest’s eulogy. “She was a saint. Literally, a saint. She always put others first.” And I wanted to scream.


I didn’t scream out, of course. I stayed quiet in my seat. I own my share of the blame. The depth of your need terrified me and I left you to get on with it all. I wasn’t there when you needed me to be. It was easier to pretend I didn’t notice. To visit occasionally and then not at all. To phone occasionally and then not at all. To write letters, and then postcards, that said very little and needed no reply. I’ve learned a lot about being there these past years but too late for you and me. There is no going back but I would do better by you now.

I don’t believe these words will find you now any more than the postcards did. You are gone. Not gone somewhere. Just – gone. But there are tears in my eyes and perhaps that stands for something.


Loved And Lost: Remember All Those Nights We Cried

One of my oldest friends died last night.

She died and I am angry.

I want to kick the dog. I want to scream at the baby. I want to pull out my hair and punch holes in the walls. I want to ram my car into something, anything. I want to choke the birds who are singing and tell the Universe to fuck off because how dare it be a sunny and beautiful day today. How dare the world keep spinning now that two little boys are to grow up without a mother. I have this untapped chasm of rage I didn’t know I could possibly feel.

I’ve never felt so angry in my entire life.

My oldest friend died last night.

She was 26.

Post written February 10, 2008

#MeToo Many, Many Times

The first time I was molested, I was 6 years old. My step-dad was a controlling, abusive asshole and had been grooming me over the few years he’d been married to my mom. It started as tickling, then moved to a touch here, me touching him there, and everything you can imagine in between.

At 6, I had no idea this wasn’t normal interaction. He was the only dad I knew.

At 8, I knew how to give a blow job, at 10 he was attempting penetration (poorly), at 12 when I got my period, I got worried. A substitute teacher covered a chapter on sexual abuse in health class and I realized that this wasn’t normal at all. I told my mom that afternoon, he moved out that night, I got lots and lots of counseling.

At 14, I was raped by a 21 year old that was my “boyfriend.” We met through a mutual friend, he got me drunk on Everclear and told me if I didn’t let him put it in one hole he was gonna put it in the other, whether I liked it or not.

I thought it was a compelling argument.

I remember he had big speakers under his mattress and he put on something with a shit ton of bass and it made me so nauseous that I spent 20 minutes puking on his back porch. I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I continued to date him for an additional 6 months.

During that time he fantasized about moving to Alabama (where 14 is the age of consent) getting married and having babies with me. At the end of those 6 months he nearly got arrested for threatening a secretary with bodily harm for not allowing him to bring me flowers to my class… in middle school.

My mom found out and then I spent 4 weeks as an inpatient at a juvenile psychiatric facility. I started my long journey of anti-depressants and self-medicating.

At 15, I walked over to a boy’s house that I had a crush on to “hang out.” We were making out and he got my pants off. I let him know I wasn’t interested in having sex so he decided that putting his belt inside me was a better option? I was known as “belt girl” (probably still am, honestly) for a number of years after that, to our group of mutual friends.

At 31, I got locked into a hotel room with a smooth talker (stalker) who had me convinced we were in love. The next 8 hours were filled with things I never want to remember and that my brain won’t recall. I left sore and mentally broken, but I never told a soul (until now).

These are of course only the major offenses. I’m not including the literal hundreds of unsolicited dick pics, “accidental” gropings, catcalling, and unwanted sexual advances that occur from randoms quite often.

Why didn’t I report it at the time?

Well it depends on the occurrence. The first time I didn’t know any better, the second time I was in love, the third I was embarrassed and ashamed, the fourth I was terrified of ever seeing him again. I definitely didn’t want a court case. I never filed charges on any of them. Even the long-term ones.

I remember vividly talking to a counselor who warned me of the long court process to press charges against my dad, how it was my decision (AT 12), and whether they should file charges with the DA. Seems like something an adult should’ve decided, no? That stayed with me through all of my assaults. I felt powerless and guilty. I blamed myself for my poor decisions. Surely, I mean, it was my fault, right?

So now PTSD is a real thing I live with every day as a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. The triggers are never expected or convenient. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand with that. Once, a psychologist mentioned her surprise that I didn’t have a personality disorder, so there’s that, I suppose?

This is why the #MeToo movement is so vitally important.

The shame, the bureaucracy, the headaches, the guilt, it’s not worth reporting. This is what I’ve been told time and again as a victim. Maybe not in those words, but certainly with that intent. Someone didn’t want the paperwork and i didn’t want the trauma of retelling my story time and time again.