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.

Subscribe to blog posts via Bloglovin or Feedly. I just started using feed readers recently to keep track of my own internet reading. Shit’s amazing. I used to write down the URLs of my favorite sites in a notebook. Sometimes with a colored pencil.

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Ghetto University (Notes on Getting Over the Past)

EJLgoodintentionsImage: Flourish in Progress on Instagram

The first time I landed in rehab, I met a woman who’s addiction ended up saving her life. She had two children, a husband, a home in the country, and a small apartment near the Ivy League university where she taught (for late nights when she was too exhausted to make the long drive home).

A few months before voluntarily checking into rehab, she sunk into a low place where she felt broken beyond repair and decided that what she wanted most was to kill herself. But before doing it, she wanted everything around her to be perfect, because she hated the thought of inconveniencing anyone. She deep cleaned the carpets and laid liners in drawers and responded to student emails and wrote letters to her daughters. No matter how many tasks she completed to tie up all of the loose ends, the list just seemed to grow. To numb her exhaustion, she started doing meth. What began as an occasional boost quickly grew into a raging addiction.

When she realized that she had spiraled from “just” suicidal to suicidal addict, she was forced to admit that what she had previously defined as her rock bottom wasn’t really the bottom. This inability to determine just how fucked up her life could become comforted her. She decided that leaving would be so much worse than staying and that she was, in fact, NOT broken beyond repair.

I’ve thought about her a lot over the years.

I turned 33 yesterday. If someone had told me on my last birthday what the year ahead would look like, I would have started drinking immediately and stayed shitfaced for the entire twelve months. Unfortunately, I don’t have any psychic friends, and I don’t keep alcoholic beverages in my home.  (Side note: My mother still brings up that one time in 1992 I called the Psychic Friends Network for eleven minutes at a rate of $3.99/min. Please let it go, ma.)

I allowed myself to feel dirty emotions like grief and regret and shame. I sunk into a deep depression. On days when I spent the majority of my time in bed, hiding away under the masses of pillows and blankets, I agonized over the poor life choices I’ve made since becoming a teen, and I realized that I hadn’t ever carefully considered what it is that would make me feel like a whole person.

And because I am not yet whole, I am afraid that my pockets of emptiness will swallow anyone that crosses my path. I don’t hug my daughter as much as I want to. A very large part of me believes that my dirtiness will rub off on her and sully her remarkable sheen.

Processing my past took me to Ghetto University. I’ve known for some time that by holding on to the ghosts of people and places and moments that are no longer part of my present experience, I’ve relinquished my right to enjoy life. But still, letting go seemed like such a waste- all the effort I had put into obsessing about what could have been or what I was owed or what I still owed others.

I stayed away from blogging. Everything I wrote looked exactly the same, week after week. I was waiting to be perfect to start again. Which is, like, totally fucking weird, because I’ve never been perfect before. The probability of stumbling into perfection while eating Kit Kats in bed and then throwing the empty wrappers on the floor is extremely low.

Because I have lived for so long suspended in the belief that I’m not equipped to make smart decisions for myself and that I don’t really deserve forgiveness, I didn’t know how to step out of that pit at first. Peace seemed foreign. But strange places can be wonderful.

I’m still working my way out, but all of it, every ugly crack I’ve tripped over, has been worth it.

I must remember: I do not have to be perfect to be good. This applies to you too.

FiPghetto

P.S. Yesterday also marked the 3rd anniversary of this blog. I had no idea when I started that this would bring so much goodness into my life. For between-post updates and random (t)hug life thoughts, “like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or follow along on the Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) grind.

Monday Dare: Drugs? Yes, please.

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the click to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Drugs. Take some.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Holy smokes, I can’t believe you’re still alive, homegirl!” I would have a lot of money. Not Car Money but somewhere in the neighborhood of Name Brand Lip Gloss Money. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the Disney Fairies Lip Gloss Compact that Cal gave me last year, but I get a little nervous every time I pull it out in public to touch up my pout. I can tell from some of the wayward glances I’ve been getting that it’s a hot ticket item. Thank god my purse has a secure zipper top.

The people who find my aliveness (word? not a word?) so noteworthy are folks I knew back in the day. My first instinct when I see these Party People From My Past is to run. Which I have done. If we happen to make eye contact, I try to be pleasant with a little smile or a gang sign and pray that they don’t come over for a chat. Which they do.

It surprises me that they recognize me at all. I look different. I am no longer that girl with the stringy, brittle hair and the acne brought on by not washing my face for three or four days in a row because I was too high to give a shit about a consistent exfoliate + cleanse + tone + moisturize routine. None of my clothes have cigarette burn holes. All of my shoes fit.

And I feel different. My intentions are not stitched together with ulterior motives. I no longer build friendships based on the quality of the eight ball of cocaine the other person has to offer. My feelings are no longer buried under a mound of cocaine, crack, speed, ecstasy, LSD, benzos, prescription pain killers, prescription cough syrup, or anything else I could grind up and snort, smoke, or chug.

But most of the people who only knew me when I was rooting around in the filth of my flimsy decisions will always see me as That Girl.

I don’t bother to explain to them that these days, That Girl rarely keeps alcohol in the house. And That Girl tries to act like a motherfucking hero by refusing Advil when she has a headache because she is afraid of becoming addicted. She has never heard of anyone becoming addicted to Advil, and she would like to keep it that way.

I don’t want to be That Girl. I am now This Woman.

As This Woman, I’m certain that I’ll still make the wrong choices sometimes, but it won’t be because I don’t give a fuck about anything or anyone, including myself. I give lots of fucks about lots of fucking things.

I’ve shied away from putting anything into my body because of my addictive personality, but I don’t think that’s the right solution for me anymore. I’m okay with doing drugs again. Like, the legal kind from Costco. I trust myself.

And besides, the last I heard, my dealer got out of the hustle. I guess we both got tired of being That Girl.
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P.S. Big ups to everyone for being so supportive of the new Flourish in Progress radio show! Podcasts of the first few episodes are now available. This one is my favorite so far because I share my best piece of life advice: Every time you go to a strip club, pretend it’s your first time. I guarantee you’ll get great service.

P.P.S. Most of the Baby Those Thug Lips lip balm in Buttercream and Peppermint from the Hood Goods store are gone, but there are a few left. People, these balms are the bomb. If you’d like to order one, check out the page and drop me a line.

Stay connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for lots of random shit. Some of it is funny. Some of it is just stupid and pointless. Wow, that was a really horrible sales pitch.

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