Writing for me is usually spontaneous and inspired by events and/or dreams. It’s as if I wake up one morning and the inspiration is more of a demand. Writing is also very cathartic. For this very reason, I have kept journals most of my adult life. Last time I took to the keyboard to blog was after the Orlando shootings. Granted there have been infinite topics since last year’s entry that should have commanded my derrier to sit in the chair and tap the keys. Maybe I have been speechless? hmmmm… Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows this is highly unlikely because I tend to have a burning necessity to proclaim my truth, to “Speak my mind because it hurts too much to bite my tongue!” Ironically, I am sitting here listening to Chris Cornell’s “Higher Truth” as my fingertips are busy busy. Shall I begin with musings of Chris’ life and death first? Or should it be religion? Or should it be politics? Or should it be awareness? It may all just merge together… round and round she goes… addressing topics people would much rather have their head in the sand about.
CHRIS CORNELL… AND OTHER INSPIRATIONS
There is nothing in my playlist that resembles true “grunge.” There is some Eddie Vedder from the movie “Into the Wild.” That soundtrack was mesmerizing. Eddie’s voice is hypnotic. And I won’t go into depth about what that movie meant to me. Some people think I am crazy for seeing it up to 12 times. Others have accused me of wanting to live like Chris McCandless did. Nah, truthfully, I like my creature comforts way too much! I know many lines from that epic film by heart and scenes for sure. Yes, I know when Chris starts paraphrasing Thoreau, when Rainey jabs at Chris about being an “industrious little fucker” and about the obsession, his desperate NEED to experience being in the middle of the WILD. This is where McCandless and I see eye to eye. There is NOTHING like being in the wilderness without humans to soil the serenity and rawness of it all. The scene in particular that invokes DEEP emotion each time I see it is when Chris is asked by Mr Franz (Hal Holbrook) to be his son as he is finally leaving Southern California to embark on the BIG journey North. A little aside here… back in October of 2011, I ran into Hal Holbrook at Trader Joe’s in Richmond, VA. He was not really trying to be inconspicuous, but it was difficult to recognize him as he was in his “Lincoln” character at the time. As fate would have it, I ended up directly behind him in line. As with other celebrities I have met out in public, I have never been afraid to talk with them as if they are one of us, because most of them really are unless their ego is humongous! I started the interaction with Hal by tapping him gently on the shoulder and telling him that he looked a lot like someone famous from the movies and then I winked 😉 He smiled back and reached out his hand to shake mine. I then proceeded to tell him how taken aback I had been by his role in “Into the Wild.” As the genuine and humble being that I have always assumed he was, he said, “I was completely honored to have been involved with such amazing actors and a genius director in Sean Penn.” I agreed with his assessment of Penn as a director, although when I had met Sean in San Francisco many years earlier, he struck me as a bit of a prick. He’s got a reputation to uphold.
Back to Chris, depression and addiction… There were a few songs of Chris’ that I loved and “Higher Truth” was one of my favs. I also am fond of “Seasons” and “Like A Stone.” Other than those three songs, I hadn’t known much about Chris or his life, career and/or tendencies towards severe depression. I DID know he was sober, but I didn’t know he was taking Ativan. After all, most folks who claim to be “sober” do not take dangerous and highly addictive drugs like Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Vallium, Serax) which were developed initially to be used to assist immediately with crippling anxiety attacks, not to be taken in high doses on a daily basis. Those drugs can also be an easy “gateway” back to alcohol. Using both in combination can be lethal. And trying to withdraw suddenly from either can also be lethal. You might ask how I know this?
CO-OCCURRING… MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION
After my mom passed away in April of 2015, I fell into a DEEP depression. I wasn’t working at all and could NOT work. (Many did not understand this and judged me and still do. And right here is my middle finger for them!) This particular period of depression AND anxiety was severe and was definitely not the first time in my life I felt this way. One of the only things I was doing was regularly attending 12 step meetings in my hometown, which most times made me want to drive directly to the store to buy a six pack afterwards. Months went by and I finally succumbed to the constant urge to drink. Depression does that. Isolation does that. Hiding your feelings does that. Your sick mind gives you this great idea that you can escape how horrible you are feeling. Sure, that’s true for a few hours, until you wake up the next morning feeling like suicidal hammered dog shit. I can’t remember when I REALLY lost my sobriety again in 2015, (I’d been at it since March of 2010) but I suspect it was around mid September of ’15. I just remember going to California to pick up Moby the VW van and drinking rather socially there and on the drive back to NY as well. I feel like the relapse could be another blog entirely, but what I will just segue here by saying is that severe depression is not just a “bad attitude,” “negative thinking,” or something that one just get’s over by “pulling ones self up by the bootstraps.” Clinical depression and mental illness are VERY serious diseases that are crippling and debilitating at times. My very close friends who have saved me from intentionally overdosing or jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, know this about me and the disease I have struggled with for many years; having remembered my first major depressive episode around 7 years old. Nonetheless, eventually we will find out exactly what happened with Chris Cornell. For now, I can testify from my own personal use AND abuse of Ativan, (sometimes up to 6 mgs per day) that it is NOT a drug to be messed with. Withdrawal is excruciating at times and often people develop suicidal thoughts or hallucinations and/or both. During my attempted withdrawal while having been in the supervision of someone who knew very little about withdrawal from benzos, it was suggested when my drugs ran out that I should “tough it out” and “buck up and get through it” if I truly wanted to get off of them fast and forever. If that person only knew what it felt like in my skin and in my brain, they never would have said that. I knew abrupt withdrawal was definitely not the way to get off of them, but I certainly wasn’t thinking clearly and attempted to appease the person who’s company I was in. After three days, going from 3 mg down to nothing, I “toughed it out” alright… right to the ER after 3 nights of insomnia, hallucinations, hot and cold sweats, trembling uncontrollably and feeling extremely suicidal. I couldn’t sleep, eat, drive, or see straight. I sobbed hysterically for hours and used an entire box of Kleenex. Everything I EVER felt negatively about myself, my life, my intimate relationships, was playing right in front of my face on an enormous screen in high definition technicolor with surround sound and looping to boot. I also was in danger of a stroke, seizure, heart attack or all 3. Immediately upon arrival, the ER doc gave me a 2mg injection, and supervised me until I was stable enough to leave. They sent me away with an emergency Rx to get “the devil drug” back in my system until I could find help to properly detox from it. My next step which needed to be accomplished rapidly, was to find an outpatient program and a substance abuse/mental health counselor as well as an MD who would help me withdraw, regularly urine test me, and NOT up my dosage each time I asked like my old doctor did. Needless to say, she is not my MD any longer. Someone was definitely watching over me, (mom) because everything I needed for treatment fell right into place in a mere matter of days. During the withdrawal process, it is suggested that one tapers down VERY slowly because the side effects are brutal. Each time I lowered my dose, I felt the agitation, the irritation, the physical side effects of profuse sweating and palpitating heart etc. Breathing deeply works for a spell. Exercise works ok too. Magnesium L-Threonate and 5HTP at bedtime in HIGH doses works a bit for the insomnia which ensues. Each time I lowered my dose, usually by .25 mg a script, I went through “little pergatory” for a spell before feeling somewhat “normal” or stabilized. My Ativan was initially prescribed much like I assume Cornell’s was, to assist in the withdrawal from alcohol and the anxiety and depression that went along with it. The problem is that the drug is HIGHLY addictive and I should never have been taking more than .5 mg and ONLY when I experienced intense anxiety. During that horrific attempted “cold turkey” withdrawal, I could have wound up like Cornell, but I had the help of incredible professionals and a great support system that has very little to do with traditional recovery or the 12 steps to help me get back on track. The 12 steps have saved lots of lives, but the question is… Aren’t they a bit outdated? Same meetings, same literature, same format, same people, same stories looping over and over again… Needless to say, I’m happy to be pursuing a new career in the recovery field and am pleased to see how it is evolving from archaic ideas that once convinced folks that they were powerless and had to surrender to “God” to help kick their addictions, to a new form of EMPOWERING people to NOT be powerless over anything. Sorry to all you AA-ers, but it never worked for me and now I understand exactly why. Maybe it never worked for Chris Cornell either. My hope is that we are moving into a new age of holistic recovery where safe/recovery houses (that charge 1400 per month to share a small room) and traditional rehabs (that are similar to jails, attempting to brainwash both mentally and physically sick souls into wellness in 30 days) are going to be a thing of the past. Could it be possible that we are moving into a new age where mental illness AND addiction are no longer going to be stigmatized or considered illegitimate health issues? They are probably two of the most serious diseases that get shelved time and again because they have to do with our brain’s function. As a woman friend said in a meeting I attended last week, “If I was sitting here telling a room full of strangers that I was recovering from breast cancer, I would get all kinds of sympathy and love. But here I am saying that I have mental health issues and addiction problems and I am potentially open to being publicly scorned!” Point here??? Recovery IS recovery whether it’s from cancer OR mental health issues and/OR addiction. Depression and addiction are both epidemics of insane proportions in our society and country and they are still being largely ignored… THIS MUST CHANGE QUICKLY IF WE ARE TO SAVE LIVES!
onto more of “THE INSANITY OF NOW”
I don’t know what was going on astrologically in the last 48 hours, but some really whacko shit happened yesterday for sure. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a TRUTH seeker in ALL aspects of my life. Religion or “faith” is often a touchy subject, but politics is NOT, nor should it ever be something “private” for one’s decision to vote, and candidate of choice, effect every single one of us as well as the entire world! I believe many who voted for the garbage currently in office are embarrassed to admit any longer that they did. Those who are still defending 45 are either in denial, delusional and/or #foxnewswashed. More on that particular insanity later… On the topic of religion (some call it faith) my deviation from Catholicism and/or Christianity began about 40 years ago during my evening studies to prepare to make my confirmation after I left Catholic grade school. I told my mother that if she sent me to Catholic high school that she would never see me again, that I would run away and NEVER come back. Recollecting as far back to my first communion, I can remember thinking… “Why am I eating this round thing pretending that it is part of someone’s body?” My parents and peers knew I was a smart child, but my rebellion began when I was asked to confirm my belief in THE messiah. Nope, not me… Don’t ask me exactly why, but I just knew in my gut and my heart that I would rather be skipping my religious education classes and toking a spliff with Larry R behind St Bernadettes. My mother didn’t speak to me for 4 months when I pulled out of confirmation. It was the beginning of an earnest Spiritual quest that continues to be an educational journey each and every day. (If you really want to know about my Spiritual beliefs and about “experiencing God” you’ll have to wait for my blog about being in “church” with the Native Americans in a sundown to sunrise teepee peyote ceremony in Oregon in the summer of 1999. It changed my life FOREVER! If I ever doubted there was a spiritual world beyond this one, I absolutely no longer do.) Basically, for the sake of ending this blog and sticking to the point I am trying to make, I believe in the ENERGY of the Universe that responds to our thoughts and actions to create our reality. I believe in karma. I’m not big on the word prayer, but I do believe in positive thought and sending LIGHT to others when they are in need. Call it prayer if you want to, but prayer connotes religion and I simply don’t do an organized one of those. My belief is that the sooner we start taxing churches, the sooner we will be able to provide health care for everybody, which I believe in today’s modern society should be a right, not a privilege.
Here’s the thing with “faith” – believe anything you want in regards to religion/faith, but #1, just be a good person, damnit. Obey the golden rule and please don’t ever tell me that what I believe is bullshit and I will return the favor. I’ve learned to keep my staunch opinions a bit to myself on this ONE topic! 😉 Last but not least, PLEASE don’t ever try to convince me that something you believe is what I should be believing! As I mentioned to a dear, very long time friend last night, we might all have different ways to get to the LIGHT. We might call the LIGHT different things. But in the end, the LIGHT is LOVE and IMO, GOD IS LOVE. Therefore, my religion is LOVE. My religion is KINDNESS. My religion is TRUTH. And just for the record, the flow chart of determining religions posted on my Facebook yesterday was meant for a chuckle. My most sincere apologies if anyone was offended by it.
TRYING TO COVER UP THE TRUTH ISN’T WORKING ANY LONGER
Last night I had a very heated and reactionary debate with someone who I love a lot that told me to “get a life” when I started talking about the 1% and the corruption in our Republic. (BTW folks, we are NOT a Democracy, we are a REPUBLIC that is SUPPOSED to be run in a democratic fashion.) At least that is how our forefathers intended it to be. Anyway, when the topic of 911 came up and it being an inside job, I was accused of being “crazy.” So be it… bat shit crazy for the TRUTH is what I am! Those buildings were ALL detonated on 911 and there are over 2000 engineers world wide who have testified to this, especially building #7! [Google it if you have the nerve to maybe have your mind altered and blown! Here’s a quick video for starters… 911 Truth Video Can Not Be Debunked.] Say whatever you want about my sanity, but I base my views on FACTS and what I feel in my GUT to be TRUE. If you choose to, it’s your prerogative to stay in the dark, listen to the mass media and to our government telling lie after lie… IN MY OPINION, it’s totally your loss to live behind the veil. If ignorance is bliss, then so be it for the one who refuses to ask questions where questions SHOULD be asked. I’d rather know the ugly TRUTH and get pissed off than hide my head in the sand! The war after 911 made a lot of the 1% a hell of a lot more wealthy. Crazy? I don’t think so. Human life over $/oil? Nope, remember that Michael Jackson song, “They Don’t Really Care About Us?” Bingo! that is our government. As the dearly departed George Carlin once said, “QUESTION EVERYTHING!”
Ok, nearing an ending on this one. Reflecting on the last two days, maybe my internal unrest and exterior conflict on this was triggered by watching the miniseries “The People v OJ Simpson – An American Crime Story.” If anyone hasn’t seen it yet, it is gripping and truth telling and spine chilling. Anyone who has known me since childhood knows that I was a huge “Juice” fan when he played for Buffalo. In 1975, my brother-in-law took a beautiful portrait of OJ in the locker room with a nappy head after just removing his helmet. He enlarged it and took it back the next home game for OJ to personally autograph it for me. It was matted and framed and gifted to me on my 11th birthday. It read “to Susie, all my best, OJ Simpson #32.” I still have it packed away somewhere, although I really don’t know why because the knowledge that he got away with BRUTAL murder makes me want to vomit to this day. To have watched my childhood idol and his attorneys lie their asses off and pull a race card to get him off, while somehow being able to sleep at night, reminds me much of what is currently going on in our “government” except on a MUCH larger and horribly corrupt scale. The American people will continue to be victims of the murder of our civil liberties until #WETHEPEOPLE get out there and take this government down. I’m not just talking about impeachment, I am talking about a total 2 party abolishment and a government that WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE, not just the 1%.
OK, off my soapbox now… To answer the looming question, I am still sober and intend to live out the remainder of my life as such and hopefully help others come back from the abyss of mental health issues and addiction. They do go hand in hand 95% of the time. Feel free to leave ANY comments or opinions if you wish. Rest assured “The Insanity of 45” is coming soon 🙂 Namasté