I Choose Me (Notes on Facing the Truth About Addiction)

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Ask anyone who’s ever hit rock bottom about the moment they finally realized the truth about themselves, and they can tell you in detail when they stopped believing their own bullshit. Usually, the story involves extraneous details that take a long time to recount. You start hating yourself for asking and then wonder how you can become a heartless fucker who doesn’t care about anybody so you never have to listen to this kind of drivel again. This has never been a problem for me because as my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Lefever, once told me, my listening ears are broken. Maybe she told me ten times, but my penchant for underachievement has saved me from listening to a lot of shit that would only clutter my pristine, unused mind.

I’m bad at being good to myself. I don’t understand love the way I think someone my age (33) and in my position (mother and wife) should understand it. More importantly, I lack the ability to recognize pain as a sign that something is wrong. Actually, I’m uncomfortable being pain-free. I don’t feel like myself. That weight helps me know that I exist.

Even with a tolerance as high as mine, I’ve been feeling an unbearable amount of pain lately. I thought it was because I lost the sudoku book I got at the dollar store that I refuse to replace because there isn’t another dollar store close by, and the ones at my local bookstore start at $5.95. What am I? A rapper with limitless income?

Instead of buying two sudoku books as I had originally planned, I decided to spend my other dollar on a foldable map of the United States. It’s always bothered me that I’m not able to immediately identify the 48 contiguous states (Alaska and Hawaii are freebies, and if you can’t identify those two states on a map, then you’re totally fucked in life and don’t let nobody tell you different).

Since I’ve been going to therapy again, I used my session the week I lost my sudoku book to lament about my haphazard organizational skills. I don’t know what you consider a good use of time with a therapist, but my heart felt a lot lighter after spending 20 minutes recounting all the special items I’ve lost over the years, especially the Louis Vuitton bracelet I lost in New York while I was not sober.

The session started out with a list of lost items and moved into my therapist claiming that I was an addict. I’m not one of those people that lets anyone with a mental health workbook and a feelings chart tell me about myself, so I regularly dismiss any label I’m given. “I’m not an addict, you stupid fuck. I can stop any time I want.” Actually, my mouth said “Ms. Dee,” but my eyes said “stupid fuck.”

It’s been difficult to face the truth about myself. I just kept pretending that I was fine. I would smile and make little dry jokes and turn the attention back on the other person so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions.

I was also confused for a long time because people told me that I looked “so put together” and happy, so if I felt any other way, I chided myself for being delusional. I learned not to trust my feelings. Since I’ve been told countless times that my thoughts aren’t the truth either (especially ones that involve self-hate and self-sabotage), I began to believe that every single thing that went on inside of me was a lie.

I lean on my addictions when the pain becomes overwhelming, and it takes my breath away every time I try to deal with it. Now, after all this time, the one simple truth I know about my weaknesses is that they don’t even really mask the pain I feel. They amplify it. My addictions bring in a new level of agony that I can only reach when I am knee-deep in my secret habits. Being in therapy has helped me realize that many elements of my day-to-day routine are actually addictions.

Yesterday, on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page, I wrote:

I was scrolling through my FB feed just now and saw these words from my friend, Laurie White: “I recommend asking for the help you need to do the things you think you cannot do. That’s the part I was missing.”

 I hate crying because it makes me feel weak and I refuse to do it if at all possible. But Laurie’s words made me cry and just this once, I knew that it wasn’t because I was weak.

 I hate that being an addict is something I’ll never not be. (That probably didn’t make sense, but y’all know I struggle with my English on the reg.) Addicts are either letting their addictions take over their lives or running away from them. Both are exhausting and sometimes I feel like a loser. Asking for help in either phase is what usually makes the difference for me. I hate asking for help though. Because that makes me feel like I’m not capable of helping myself. Which cannot possibly be the truth because we all know that I’m pretty goddamn perfect.

I am finally able to face the truth about my addictions, and I’m going to spend some time getting help. There are some things that I just can’t do on my own. I can choose to let my addictions flourish or I can choose me.

I choose me.

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P.S. My ability to estimate the amount of time anything requires is real, real bad, but I hope to be back on the blog before too long…fingers crossed that with some serious effort in July, I’ll be back in August. In the meantime, I’ll occasionally be rolling by Instagram (@flourishinprogress) or the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. I’ll still be posting Rap Lyrics + Tree pictures on my passion project, Hood Plus Good on Instagram, though not as often. Y’all be good. I done enough bad for the whole lot of us. Thank you for being so kind to me.

tupacbox(flourishinprogress on Instagram)

P.P.S. Creating something has always been therapeutic for me, whether it’s a string of words that convey a thought or a scrapbook (my scrapping skills are fucking legit). I started making these boxes again. I make each from fine silver which is 99.99% silver (vs. sterling silver which is 92.5%). Each box starts out as a lump of precious metal clay (fine silver particles and binders) which I shape, mold, carve, and assemble, then I throw into my kiln at 1,650*. The binder burns off leaving just the precious metal. Since silver is a market commodity, the price of this clay fluctuates all the time, and it’s gotten expensive as fuck to make each one. But, like, YOLO. This one was inspired by Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Broadway musical based on Tupac’s work, that I just saw in New York last week.

Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete  -Tupac Shakur

I’d like to try creating other objects besides boxes. Any thoughts? The box pictured above is only about the size of a quarter (due to precious metal clay prices), so I’d like to keep other projects about the same size. Thank you for your help.

How Can I Make Some Money Legally?

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“I don’t know how I can be so ambitious and so lazy at the same time.” -Ned Vizzini

Despite the rage I exhibit 90-95% of the time, and despite the text message I sent several weeks ago that said something like “I’m going to fuck you up,” violence makes me very uncomfortable. A lot of people smirk when I say this, especially the people who happened to be in a certain Boston hotel bar in May 2011, and also my husband, who I woke up later that evening to tell him about the misunderstanding that has since been labeled an “altercation.” Look, I’m only going to say this one more time: When it comes to justice, being outnumbered four to one does not discourage me, and no, I do not know why several security guards and the bar manager found it necessary to intervene.

Since Cal will be graduating high school in three years, I’m trying to forgo violence and live within the confines of the law. Teens are especially impressionable at this age. I want to instill valuable life lessons like “Being feminine doesn’t equal being weak. You can be a delicate flower AND a badass motherfucker at the same time.” It’s difficult to teach these finely nuanced concepts during a short prison visit.

I also want to show her that working hard and having marketable skills is important. Knowing how to hustle means that she doesn’t need to depend on anyone else or feel trapped in a toxic situation because she lacks options.

Making money has always been an elusive endeavor for me. It’s not that I don’t have the marketable skills to obtain a job that pays solid wages, which is true and probably the most important point, but it’s more that I find it difficult to work consistently or for long periods of time. I call that being a freedom liker. Other people call that being a lazy motherfucker.

For a person with limited marketable skills, a penchant for laying in bed, and a lack of discipline, what’s a good way to make money legally while maintaining my high standards? Most of my standards can change on a whim except for a few I stick to 100% of the time. My side hustle can not result in: death, a criminal record, or a uniform that involves a cap. Some health benefits would be nice. It doesn’t have to be insurance per se, but if the job came with a bottle of sunscreen as a perk, I would consider that a health benefit.

NOT OKAY SIDE HUSTLES: drug lord, smuggler, robber, counterfeiter, mushroom or marijuana grower, prostitute, hacker, ponzi schemer, embezzler, contract killer, poacher, underground gambler, Hot Dog on a Stick worker (very ugly cap)

BEST SIDE HUSTLE: If you were to distill money-making into one simple idea, it is this: You make money by providing goods or services. Your role needs to be useful in some way. To other people. Not just to you. This job may seem undesirable at first, but just walk with me.

Fruit kingpin: Selling fruit is the best job in the world. For the seller, it’s a source of income, and for the buyer, it’s a source of nutrition and deliciousness.

I went to Whole Foods yesterday because I felt like spending a lot of money and getting very little in return. It’s hard to avoid WF in this neighborhood because there are five within a 6-mile radius from my home. The first item to greet me was a display of cherries and the sign below said “$9.99.” I really like cherries and I really like my family, but I don’t like either enough to spend $10, so I just kept walking. Less than 5 steps away, I saw another display of cherries for only $6.99. I didn’t read the sign carefully, but I was pretty sure that the price difference was because these were laced with pesticides. If I can save $3, I will risk early death. You just have to ask yourself what’s most important to you, and for me, it’s saving money. Health is nice, but that’s not something you can pass down to your kids, so I just stick with money.

I put the bag of chemical-laden cherries into my cart and felt good about myself. Since I saved $3, I decided to buy $11 ice cream. Well, it used to be $13, but it was on sale. By my calculations, I had just made $5.

When I got home, I glanced at the receipt and realized that the cherries were $6.99/lb. I tried to get some sympathy from Cal, but she told me that I was too old not to know that stores usually write the slash and the “lb” in smaller letters. “You need to pay attention next time, mommy, or you might buy $19 cherries again.” So coldhearted.

This experience gave me the idea to start selling fruit. I can set my own hours. I wouldn’t have to relocate to a new city. I would be my own boss. And after careful consideration, I would most likely price my cherries at $7.99/lb. More expensive than Whole Foods, but my customers would get the satisfaction of supporting a small business. That kind of smugness for only $1/lb is a good price.

Since selling fruit is a seasonal grind, I am currently considering backup career options. Club promoter is the top contender. Hm. Maybe I could sell cherries at the club.

HOOD plus GOOD on INSTAGRAM

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For the past 20 months, I’ve been taking a picture of the same tree almost every day. I’ve posted some of my favorite pictures on the Flourish in Progress Instagram, but I wanted a way to keep track of my tree collection separately because they are so special to me. Two weeks ago, I posted the first tree picture on an Instagram I already had on lockdown, @HoodPlusGood (locked that bitch down after I spent a grip of bills trademarking the phrase). The picture looked kinda lonely by itself, so I added rap lyrics. It seemed like the perfect fit: rap lyrics + nature = hood + good.

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P.S. Kick it with me on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. You will not be sorry. Probably.

top image via Neuarmy

 

Don’t Play Games with a Girl Who Can Play Better (Notes on Ugly Men and Relationshits)

Harv and I take turns picking Date Night restaurants. His choices are always varied and adventurous, a reflection of his refined palate. My two major takeaways from Harv’s fine dining selections: 1. An amuse-bouche is a one-bite appetizer the chef sends out before your meal, and it’s not okay to ask for extras “in a doggy bag for later” because you will get MAD side-eye. 2. If your server and/or husband offers only a vague description about a menu item, lift your hand into the air while consulting your phone. That’s the white collar sign for “Hold up. Let me Google this motherfucker real quick.” I’m not going to tell you what to order, but sweetbreads are not croissant-like pastries.

Last Friday, it was my turn to plan Date Night. I picked Hot Dog on a Stick. Not only were we able to enjoy dinner without the assistance of any utensils, but I also found a new dress while walking from the mall food court to the parking garage. I stepped out of the dressing room to show Harv, and he gave me a small nod. “You look beautiful,” he said.

It’s still hard for me to accept his compliments. And it’s even harder for me to believe that I ended up with someone so unlike any other man I’d dated. His differences made me wary of him at first. We tend to pick the same type of companion over and over again, not because that type suits us, but because bad and familiar can be more comfortable than good and unfamiliar.

Unlike most men I’ve dated, Harv has never been arrested, evaded arrest, incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or in rehab. He has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. He has never sold drugs or stolen car parts. He has never killed or maimed. He doesn’t have a GED. Instead, he graduated as valedictorian of his high school and has two Ivy League degrees. He did not have a minimum-wage job, live with his parents, or share a mode of transportation with anyone when we started dating. He has never hit me, called me names, belittled me, embarrassed me, shamed me, or ridiculed me. He has never made me feel like an object or a whore. He does not swear. He believes in God. Most importantly, he never throws away craft store mailers because he understands that the only thing better than metallic embossing powder is metallic embossing powder purchased at a 40% discount.

Harv is a handsome motherfucker. That’s new for me too. I favored ugly men back in the day because I thought that they would treat me better. I stayed away from the pretty boys not only because I thought they would be womanizers and generally untrustworthy, but because I felt too self-conscious and unworthy for a handsome man’s affection. The ugly men suited me- they mirrored what I felt about myself, about my self-worth.

What I eventually learned is that ugly, stupid, poor, uneducated men are just as susceptible to bad behavior as the handsome, smart, successful, and educated. Actually, they may even treat a girl worse because they themselves deal with enormous waves of insecurity and doubt, and they project this negativity onto their partner, reining them in tighter and obsessing harder.

When things became sour and violent and bitter, these men would invariably blame me. I didn’t question their accusations. I asked for forgiveness and another chance.

On the first date with the last man I dated before reconnecting with and marrying Harv, I ended up at a bar. When I headed for the restroom, a male waiter followed me in, locking the door behind both of us. Before I had a chance to react, he reassured me that he meant no harm. In a hurried mix of English and Korean, he warned me, “I’ve never seen you here before. That man with you is not good. You seem like a nice girl. Only be a friend, not a girlfriend.” He left before I could respond.

I wish I had listened to this stranger.

When the abuse started, I was too afraid to fight back. What I find most fascinating about abuse is that eventually I became numb. It didn’t hurt as much. I cried less. I zoned out. Sometimes, I mentally reorganized the contents of my refrigerator during his attacks. I thought about my favorite rides at Disneyland. I weaved my way through It’s a Small World. I spun around in circles on the teacups. I stayed quiet. I let him do his thing.

And then one day, I opened up Myspace and saw a message from Harv. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for over twelve years since we had met as teens at a sleepaway debate camp in Oklahoma, but he found me. His note was brief and friendly. It broke me.

I suddenly became enraged, not only with the boyfriend who was treating me like shit, but with all of the ugly men before him, ugly both inside and out. My rage trumped my fear, and in ways I can’t yet talk about, I slowly extricated myself from that relationshit. I learned something about myself: I don’t like losing to losers. And I learned something about life: Don’t start a war you can’t win. Because I will find a way to fuck you up.

After I married Harv, I went back to this bar, hoping to find the waiter. I wanted to thank him. He didn’t know who I was or how I was connected to the man I was with, but to him, it was worth the risk to warn me. I didn’t get a chance. The bar had shut down.

Good man, I think about you often. I hope the kindness you showed a stranger is returned to you tenfold.

Ex-boyfriend, I hope you’ve learned not to play games with a girl who can play better. (I wish I could be there the moment you realize the truth about yourself. I’m sorry that you’re such a failure and that I actually have everything you only pretended to have.)

And Harv, when sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.

____
P.S. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture of Harv on Instagram (@flourishinprogress) with  a line from I Wrote This for You: “When sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.” The talented Kal Barteski created this amazing original work (above image) on luxe watercolor paper. She’s got some serious baller status skills.

P.P.S. Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress).