How to Break Your Addiction to the Past


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

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?

Thug Office (Notes on DIY: The Nightmare That Never Ends)


Even though it’s been almost seven years since I married Harv and stopped working two or three part-time jobs, the privilege of freedom still feels foreign to me. It blows my mind that I can do as I please during the hours that suit me.

And now that I have this freedom (from: poverty, addiction, other shady shit), I no longer list every good idea in the Someday category because I can devote time to fulfilling my dreams. Last Wednesday morning I really had a hankering for the chicken teriyaki special with a fried rice upgrade at the mall food court. Guess what I ate for lunch that day? I set a goal. I make it happen.

In January, I slipped on a spray of greeting cards as I walked into my office. As I laid on the floor, I contemplated my two choices: A.) Tear the greeting cards into tiny pieces and then ask Harv how to work the fireplace or B.) Clean/clear the junk from my office. I picked choice A first, but Harv said that choice B would set a better example for Cal. Caring about your kid creates so much extra work.

What began as a weekend project to pack away a few boxes of clutter turned into a complete workspace overhaul. Today is Day 96. My ideas and expenses notebook turned into a rage DIY journal. Some of the legible notes are below.

Day 2 {January 18, 2014}
I’ve been saving this Moleskine notebook for five years. They seem to be very popular with white people. 

Day 2b
Harv saw my last entry and he said it’s not ok to typify only white people as Moleskine users. Maybe I’m racist. But I can’t be racist because I like Eminem.

Day 4
I just packed my 24th box of craft supplies and random junk. The boxes take up the length of the hallway and it seems impossible that so much came out of one room. Harv keeps asking me why there are so many unopened packages of stickers. I just said they came from a big value pack. Can his wallet be considered a value pack? I want to brighten up the space. Maybe new curtains or some wallpaper. The beige blinds are starting to bring me down. They don’t reflect my real personality. I want my new curtains to say, “I look like a Hallmark ornament collector on the outside, but I’m ghetto as fuck on the inside.” What says that? Silk dupioni? 

Day 5
Goddamn. I forgot how expensive curtains are. Maybe I’ll do wallpaper.

Day 5b
Wallpaper is fucking expensive. From now on, if I walk into a house and it has wallpaper AND curtains, MAD RESPECT. That’s the real kind of rich. Not hood rich like all those people that got everything in their mama’s name because they got bad credit.

Day 5c
Harv said he would help me paint if I don’t call him at work for the rest of the day.


Day 10
I think I have to make my own glitter paint. Every article I’ve read so far says I need special paint crystals formulated for house paint but I mixed in three packages and it’s not very glittery. I need Trinidad James level bling.

Day 11
I bought every bottle of Martha Stewart florentine gold glitter at Michaels. Wallpaper would have been 1/3 of the total cost for the paint and glitter.



Day 19
Painting looks so easy on TV. Harv says if I call HGTV “fuckin liars” one more time then I have to stop this project because it makes the vein in my right temple really pop out, and I think he doesn’t want to lose me.

Day 19b
Painting has been very therapeutic for me. I’m not that good at it, but I’m extremely decent. If the room is a little bit dark then it looks perfect. I’m no Bob Ross. I’m more of a Rick Ross.


Day 27
Harv bought me some custom pillows. Actually, I ordered them and just sent them to his office. Now that the glitter wall looks so pimp, I’m not liking the off-white on the rest of the walls. Maybe I need to paint those too.



Day 28
Pinterest told me that gray looks good with pink and gold. I bought 5 different Benjamin Moore grays today. Meh. 

Day 29
Testing out 6 more grays.


Day 29b
I don’t really like gray now that I think about it. Harv asked me if I regret starting this project and I just let the sunken look in my eyes be my answer. Sometimes words aren’t necessary if the emotion is powerful enough. 

Day 30
I went to the hardware store 4 times today and the young paint guy was there. He suggested white. This is all new to me but, apparently, there are a fuckload of whites. A lot a lot a lot of whites. This is reminding me of the gray swatching.

Day 31
I asked Harv if we could just move and he said no. Also, I Urban Dictionary-ed “pimp” and “thug” to see which one fit me best because that’s going to be my room’s theme, but it looks like I’m both.

Day 65
Picked the whitest white available- no pink, no yellow, no green, no blue, no gray tints at all. Still no curtains so I had to cover my windows with 7 pillowcases and 1 brown paper bag because I just realized that I hate sunlight. It sort of looks like a crack house window now. I’m glad I don’t smoke crack anymore. Crack is whack. I wish I came up with that.


Day 70
I want to run away from home but the main thing keeping me here is that I have no marketable skills. I can’t do anything well except talk on the phone. :(

Day 81
I cut my finger on cardboard while I was looking at frames for the dozen gold foil art prints I ordered. There was a lot of blood. It was a finger murder.

Day 82

Day 86
I spent 7 hours hand sanding an Ikea console because the first coat of paint had a lot of bubbles and dried all fucked-up looking. I got the surface smooth again, This second coat seems to be drying in streaks. Fuck this shit.

Day 93
The console has been sitting in the middle of the dining room for over a week and I don’t know what to do with it. I pushed it over when no one was home. DIY is not good for people with a lot of anger in their heart. Those people need to just go to a store and buy everything already made and painted. Even if it costs full price.

I found a new spot to work. For the past three weeks, I spread out a thick comforter in the hallway outside my office. That’s my new office. I’m asking everybody to please respect my space and not step into or onto my office without my permission, but it’s a queen size comforter and it takes up the width of the hallway. Cal can’t get to her bedroom, but I think a little bit of hardship is good for kids. Harv keeps on forgetting to knock and he says he won’t do it because I don’t have a door, but why can’t he just knock on the wall? I’m going to pretend I don’t see him until he knocks. People really need to learn manners.

Day 94





I think I lost a lot of brain cells spray painting everything gold. NBD. I am Thug Midas.

I’m really not racist, so don’t be shy. Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: FB is my fave.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): Pictures with white people. Also pictures of some poor life choices but nothing illegal because I don’t fuck with felonies.
Google+ (Elizabeth Jayne Liu): I forgot I even had a profile, but I’m going to start using it probably.