Category: Addiction + Recovery

On what it is to heal

Standing over the
hot pan stirring

the Parmesan into
the red sauce. Entirely
too much garlic.

The cat flicks
his giant white
tail beside me.

My husband wraps
his arms around

my waist. Kisses
my cheek. I raise
the wooden spoon

up to his lips.


He squeezes me

I don’t flinch.
I don’t push him
away. None of

any of it is ever
about before. We

sit for dinner and
I am



Spell Cast

It was frigid in Chicago. I hugged my father goodbye and left for work. Sun. Snow. Traffic. Chapped lips. Waitress shift. Worn out shoes for crews, black polyester pants frayed on the bottom. False smile. Wine key. Stress for nothing that was all over something at the time. I knew them a lifetime ago. “What is your life up to?”

Sidework and plans for the night. Same shit every night with a different name. Staring out the fogged window in a packed brick dive bar. Smashed in the clothes I worked in all day, that I’ll sleep in, that I’ll go back to work in tomorrow wondering

Why do I feel so stuck?

Life as a server in a suburban chain restaurant. I know about break ups, pain and the drink specials at very bar for every night of the week.

I hugged my father goodbye.

Trucker glasses low down baseball cap. The Killers “Smile like you mean it.” Cross country drive. No idea why. Vague idea to do yoga and not be a waitress. Palm trees and pools. I bought a sequined bikini because I thought it would make me feel like a person that wasn’t scared.

I wanted to be free. I got to Las Vegas. Alone in the valley. Rice and avocado only for three months I was so broke. I was in a house with no power.  The degradation of society is unapologetic and clear here in the summer heat. Its all I see. Homelessness skin sheen – too tan leathery faces.

I’m not scared and I’m still dumb enough not to know that I

should be.

“Going for dinner” was a milkshake and a carton of Marlboro Lights.  I almost relapsed on 9/11. I just wanted to not feel but instead I went to a meeting. It was in a kids classroom.

NA was a cult to me and everybody was crazy, but not my kind of crazy. In that room that day it didn’t feel that way. I stayed.

She invited me to her house because I  freaked and told her I had no food. We cooked spaghetti. There were pictures on the walls and she had a lot of kitchen stuff. I liked all of the wooden spoons. Her house felt like a home where I felt welcome.

105 heat 40% humidity. I die on the floor. I’m the victim take care of me – listen to me forever but don’t touch me. I don’t know how or why.

Talk too much don’t feel enough. Anxiety and high priced dinners to serve. Telling thousands of people about vegetables a week can be your fate if you’re strong enough to suffer.

A phone call at 3 am on a Tuesday. My mother. She found my Dad. She said he passed away. Shes whimpering. What I’m hearing can’t be. I pace around the one bedroom apartment until 6 a.m. Spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what it means to buy dog food so I can fly to Chicago. Bif picks me up in the mini coop wordlessly. Takes the dogs and drops me at the airport.

A sea of planning and sobbing ensues. My daughter walking up to the viewing in a puffy black ball gown with her parents, as my family standing behind me that never met her looks on. My fathers body to the left. I lived that moment I can live em all. Slow motion absolute.

I hugged my father goodbye. Kissed him on the lips.

He couldn’t hug me back but I felt him there, telling me to just keep going.

Thailand. Mui Tai rings and motor boats. Food not in wrappers. Choppy water – wild puppies on an abandoned beach. Meeting the whole world in paradise and yoga like I had never felt it before. The jungle. Sea lice. I need to sit on facebook and eat M&Ms to feel ok.

Certified yoga teacher – not doing shit with that because it is terrifying. But, a job. In a rehab. First day. Terrified. Three years later I teach five a week. I teach art. I’m not a

waitress and I never was. The art is bigger. More dynamic. It isn’t about what it turns into it is within who I get to be in the midst of getting it out of me. All of the birth I will never feel.

A hike to Red Rock with a friend and a stranger. Mismatched neon socks and mustard yellow adidas. Beautiful face, gorgeous accent, brilliant, reads everything and is traveling the world. Last day in the states see you in another life. I watched the air traffic a lot the next afternoon.

Terrified of him, of sounding dumb, of not being enough. Later he says I was cool like Ali Sheedy, and probably had a French boyfriend. We talk every once and a while on whatsapp until one day

“If you were here, I would keep you up all night, telling you how much I missed you.”

Six months later I’m standing in an airport, waiting for a flight form Perth. Him on an escalator, in blue fishing linen pants and a black t shirt.

None of the past matters.

Still with the yoga classes. Inconsistent but going.

Vipassana. Ten days of silence in Joshua Tree. Lifes largest metamorphosis so far. Sobbing into the phone when he answers. All he says is “I know.”

Lose the job. Get another one. I have an office and an 8-4 schedule. My Dads photo on my desk. The job folds.

I paint. I start a private practice. I start to propose my art to be purchased nationally by hospitals.

I go to her house for spaghetti. It is six years later. I know where everything in the kitchen is and make it myself. We watch family fued together and yell at the screen. Everything changes but this hasn’t.

I still write.
I still miss my Dad.
I still work a program.
I meditate.
I do yoga.

and in tiny little pockets of recognized moments, sometimes

I’m as free as I always






“The car got stolen in Mexico
& we had to walk down the 19
freeway. It was a hell of a time.

Or just hell at the time
all of that stuff from
so long ago gets glossed

over – just like epoxy
before I light the
blow torch so it’s


“You have incredible
people skills. I would
want you to be my

I chuckle.

“I’m not a therapist.
but thank you. I’m a
clinical specialist.”

I flash my work badge
at her with a smile.

The truth is I don’t
give much of a shit

about the stories of
my life much like I
once did. They don’t

define anything I just
consider my twenties
an education

that taught me
a universal
language and

with that education I
can support my family
doing what I love.

Sometimes though
I get bored on
Wednesday afternoons

with Maggie the
nurse at my job.

We eat cookies and
talk about our lives
like somebody else

lived them.

Shelli Cat

“I called you to let
you know that I finally

started writing again
and the reason I am so
angry and uncomfortable

is because everything seems
to boil down to how I don’t
have control. There are

dozens of things at work
that I am responsible for
that I have no control

over. It makes me nervous.”

“It makes me nervous when
you call me from Kevins phone.”

“I’m sorry I love his fancy new
iphone. And mine is about to
die. So I used this one.

Did Mike buy any new cannons
at the auction?”

We talk a while longer.
Some days

it is nice to just know
that there are a few
people out there that

know me, and that I know
in return. Even when stuff
gets really difficult, or
wrong or sad or whatever

to have a person that for once,
I didn’t up and walk away from
and make myself the victim. Or

start yet another version
of this life, become the things
I said I would never become.

My Sponsee says to me today

“How do I reset my day?”

I ask her if she wants the
book version or my version.

She says both.

“Write a gratitude list
call someone. Pray.”


“And go to Dairy Queen
and get a large
butterfinger blizzard

with extra extra butterfinger
and take a sugar coma of a

It was a good day.


A lot of the time I
have a perspective of

I teach yoga five
days a week at 9
am and after that a

private chef makes me
breakfast, and after
that lunch, and I just

get to hang out with
people going through
a drug detox.

This is teaching me
a lot that I don’t
have answers or solutions

I only have the ability
to be a witness that is
present to their struggles,

and some days, it is
an honor.

Some days I want to say
that I don’t want to be
the adult in the room.

I want to say that this
is draining, I am
exhausted and please,

don’t cough or puke
on me. I answer about
30 times where the

meds are, who is getting
them and why it is
taking so long. What I

want to say is that
no pill
is going to change you,

it is only going to
provide an illusion
for a while.

All days though
when I walk out of
my job and make my

way back home,
I always either go
to a yoga class or

a very long shower.

Those are the only
off buttons I have
found to be effective

so far. Every day I
watch the devastating
effects of the disease

of addiction. No matter
how difficult that is
I’m always happy that

for today
it isn’t



“There is nothing
right now
that I can say

to you. Or suggest.
Or anything but –

I want you to know
that I am here
with you. I am here

with you and
present and you
are not alone,

even if it
feels like
it. So I’m going to
just shut the

fuck up and sit
right here next to
you. I smile at her.

She looks like a very
scared and small vibrating
but innocent puppy.

“Do you want to
hold my
hand?” I put my left
hand out towards her.

She stares at it,
looks into my eyes.

Takes my hand. Manages
a smile.

We sat there for a
long time yesterday.

I left work
went to my therapist
and cried but

today I got up
and went back and
that scared woman

turned human and
alive again. We did
yoga for hours.

She ate. She shook less
and I didn’t
cry when I left.

I went to yoga and
flew into a rage but
in the meditation I

found the raging little
girl I was once
inside of me and I
said to her that I am

going to just
try to just
sit here with you

and be your witness.
I’m going to stop
having a fucking cow

idiots get up and
leave a hot room in the
middle of the sequence

and just sit
with the real
anger that comes
from the core of

my being.

Not sure yet
if it helped.

But I
tried and
my client

taught me

Hey man nice shot.

“You never know
who will turn into

You never know
what the best

pieces of yourself
become. But I can say,

that a lot of the best
parts of me

come from the parts
of you that we learn
together in this

process.” He has blue
eyes, red hair and a

pierced lip. Has

worked his ass off
since day one – has
given me his

art work and morphed
from sick junky
detoxing hard

to a person that
meditates, and draws,

and writes. Today, his
last day before he goes
back to his old house

to pack it up and

move out here for

We sit quietly.

His palms to mine
my palms to his.

“We are going to

breathe together,
you are going to
look into my eyes

as you are there,
packing up your
life – if you get

overwhelmed I want
you to remember this
moment, and to

breathe, and that
you can make it

out if you just
keep moving.

We take a series
of deep breaths

“It is just so important
that you keep


He nods his head.
Our eyes

mutual tears, a
long embrace.

I scribble my work
email address to a
scrap of paper.

Hand it to him.

“It’s ok to be
scared fucking
shitless. This is

your life or
death. It is that

I hope to see you
in a meeting

when you make it back
to Nevada.”

I walk out.
Sparing him the
story of how I

have enough
guardian angels
that never saw a

25th birthday.

Because we never
know who will turn

to what. We just
think we