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 to Break Your Addiction to the Past

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I started this post before I left for Atlanta at the end of April to speak at Mom 2.0 Summit. It is one of the few times in 44 months that I didn’t finish and publish a post the same day I started it. I guess I finally figured out how the internet works because I suddenly felt shy and naked about sharing so many of my sordid imperfections and poor life choices. This leads me to believe that I’m a slow learner cuz, like, 44 months? Come on, homegirl. Instead of working through that fear, I decided to go to Target to see if they had any Easter candy left at deeply discounted prices.

I lived in Atlanta for two years after Cal was born until I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 21. Most of the memories from my time in Atlanta are fragments because I am filled with shame when I remember the gas vouchers I received from my social worker so I wouldn’t miss my welfare appointments and the rotisserie chicken I had to put back because my food stamps didn’t pay for hot prepared foods and the time I didn’t buckle two-year-old Cal into her umbrella stroller and she fell out. Those little moments are the base notes, and they are the ones that stay. Occasionally, I recall something funny and beautiful, but like top notes, they evaporate quickly.

On this most recent trip to Atlanta, my past collided with the present. The dark waters of all the fucked-up shit I used to do started filling in the empty corners of my memory. I suddenly understood why I’ve been feeling like a fraud for years and years. My life is so good now. Is it okay to admit that? I get the sense that if your life is pretty solid, you’re supposed to point out the flaws and defects, but it’s such a weird and wondrous privilege for me to be able to say those words and actually mean it that I don’t want to dumb it down or cut into its beauty.

My life is pretty good. But on many days, I’m still not very happy. And I’m not happy because I still see myself as the person I was 5 years ago. 10 years ago. 20 years ago. Not much has changed in my self-view because I am a prisoner to my past. I live in fear of it and I keep my sins close because I don’t want to be surprised when every bad thing I’ve done boomerangs and slices me in two.

When I came back home from my trip, I had forgotten that I had even started a post. As I was about to open a page to start a new post, I saw the title of this one.

How to Break Your Addiction to the Past

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I gave myself a couple of high-fives (looks like clapping but more boisterous) for being psychic. Some sixth sense knew that I would go to Atlanta and come back ready to untether myself from the myths I’ve believed about myself for so many years.

I don’t keep in touch with many people from my past. Sometimes, it’s by default because they are dead or inaccessible due to incarceration or other unfortunate circumstances. Mostly, it’s by choice. Regret was not one of my strong suits when I was younger. I assumed that every mistake I made would add to the rich patina of a fast and wild youth, something I could look back on with amusement. Instead, it’s the kind of past where I now have to ask questions like I did in Atlanta.

I stayed in town for a couple of extra days because JK, my best homegirl and one of the few vestiges from my past that is still a part of my life, now lives in Atlanta. JK threatened to kick my ass when we first met, but somehow, she became my ride or die. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

On the last day, I spent a few hours with JK’s homeboy who was in charge of looking out for me (clearly, these people know that I am too irresponsible to be left alone). Almost an hour into casual conversation about everything and nothing, he stopped mid-sentence. I saw a shift in his face, and he said very slowly, “I….I think I know you. From a long time ago.”

There are few things I dread more than hearing these words. I had no recollection of meeting him, but he looked so sure. So I asked the question that I sometimes have to ask because my past is what it is.

“Did I sleep with you?”

He didn’t hesitate before saying “no.”

“So why were we hanging out then?”

He went on to describe multiple occasions in which we had spent time together, just the two of us. Once for coffee at Starbucks. Once to an arcade. Once at the one-bedroom apartment he shared with several friends. And once, at the weekly stay motel I was living in with Cal. He had even met Cal. “You were easy to talk to,” he said. “And look at you now. You look like you’re doing really well. Nothing like the girl I knew back then.”

I believed him. His words brought me so much comfort and relief. For a long time, I believed that I was beyond repair and very, very bad. But this person who had known me Then and met me again in the Now saw the truth.

For hours afterwards, we filled each other in on the last twelve years. I realized that my misery and shame and fear and regret changed nothing but my present. And my present is good. Really good. Out of habit, I still find myself turning around to meet my past. But then I think about the shitload of problems this has caused and I remind myself I am free to move on. Anything is possible. This is how I break my addiction to the past.

“It may have just been a moment for you, but it changed every single one that followed for me.” – I Wrote This for You

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Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: I kick it on FB, like, all damn day.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): My Insta profile reads: Hallmark ornament collector on the outside. Ghetto as fuck thug on the inside. Just letting you know in case you’re looking for flower pictures and shit.
Twitter (@ElizabethJLiu): I write stuff on here sometimes. Oh. I tweeted this out yesterday, but does y’all know any track that says “Versace, Versace, Versace” besides the one from Migos?

How to Avoid Death and Incarceration

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Sometimes, I will say things like “I don’t want to brag or anything” and “I don’t like to boast,” but I just started tacking on those additions because my husband asked me to do it. I let him win once in a while. Now that I think about it, he didn’t even give me a compelling reason. All he said was that ladies with a modicum of class and refinement don’t go around baring every small success. I don’t really understand his reason, but let me be proof that you can dislike something without actually knowing what it means.

Each December, I take a few days to mentally flip through the previous 11 months. I place imaginary checks next to the goals I set the year before and accomplished, roll over any unfinished business, and then spend the rest of the time going back to the check marks and giving myself a shitload of high-fives. It sort of looks like clapping, but a lot more boisterous.

There wasn’t a ton of boisterous clapping this year. Things were rough. I battled depression (ok, still battling, but I’m going H.A.M. on it), and I met myself for the first time. I gained a level of self-awareness I didn’t have before, and it felt like I was being introduced to the real me without all of the filters I had set up to guard myself against the truth.

I’m still disappointed by this real me. The kind of disappointment an adopted kid must feel after thinking that her birth mother is an opera singer who never forgets her coupon binder and rescues abused seals but finds out she’s actually a lot lizard with stubby toes who only eats at Carl’s Jr. A menagerie of embarrassment and shame and shock and waving some fists at God…that sort of thing.

Even when there is a shortage of check marks, I’m still a big believer in giving credit where credit is due. In this case, to myself. And since I have no trouble boasting about my successes, I’m just going to share the Top 2 from 2013 along with expert inside advice on how to do the same.

1. Still not dead: Cactus Cooler is my favorite beverage, but I try to drink several glasses of plain water every day. Sometimes, I add a splash of Cactus Cooler to the water because I’m a big fan of the artificial “could be citrus but not that sure” flavor. Dehydration causes death. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m very passionate about hydration.

I floss the fuck out of my teeth. I also use a Waterpik and an electric toothbrush. Skipping the floss might not kill you, but Gingivitis and cavities will eventually cause tooth loss. If you don’t have insurance or a lot of money to replace your teeth, you will not be able to eat properly, and then you will starve to death.

Just say no to drugs. I spent 8 years of my life high. I still can’t look at a bottle of Gatorade without thinking about crack. Drugs will kill you. Even worse, drug use will cause wrinkles and the sparkle from your eyes will disappear.

2. Still not in prison: On my saddest days, I feel like I’m in a prison because my thoughts and emotions trap me in a bad and ugly place, but I would never, ever, ever express that to a real prisoner because s/he would beat the shit out of me for being ridiculous. I get it. Real prison is worse than my tears of despair. But an even more bitter place to be is crying tears of despair in prison because there are no 3-ply tissues “on the inside,” and my face won’t stand for that cheap single-ply shit. This is just one of the reasons I can’t be convicted of any crime.

I no longer keep company with negative, dangerous, scheming, untruthful, deranged, whiny, dramatic people. Ain’t gonna lie, this swiftly removed a sizable chunk of my friend list which made me lonely and regretful of my decision in the beginning. My life was consumed by drama for so long that it’s still my default setting, and I gravitate toward volatile people. Two unstable people cannot construct a stable friendship. JUST TRUST ME. The other person’s volatility would set off my own. I narrowly avoided hitting someone this summer. Physical violence=jail time. Most likely. But don’t risk it.

I finally got honest with myself about having a rage issue. And I’m getting help for it. I have no idea what my life will look like without all this anger. And I’m worried that it’s going to take a very long time. I’ll know I’m fixed when my first reaction to conflict isn’t to hit and destroy. Dear God, how many coffee mugs from HomeGoods will have to sacrifice their lives before I’m good?

This is a lot of information and maybe you won’t remember all of it. That’s ok. Just floss your teeth and keep your hands to yourself. You are very fucking welcome.

P.S. I also give extremely wise and useful tips on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and showcase my exemplary life on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress). Well, I plan to in the future. Right now, it’s just a lot of (t)hug life shit. Like and follow anyway. You probably won’t regret it.

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image via blueq.com