My first day

I wake up to a muffled alarm because I am wearing earplugs. I sit with my coffee and vape pen on my patio and contemplate my first day of work on a new job. I am nervous and tell myself things like “This is it” which only make me more nervous. I shower and put on my business casual clothes. I want to wear my flip flops but I think twice and put on my vans. Maybe flip flops are against their rules.

I drive to the orientation place. I can’t find it at first and start to worry. I finally find it and enter the door. There is a boardroom with 6 chairs. One of the packets has my name on it. I sit and make casual conversation with the other people that will now be my coworkers. The leader of Human Resources is a motherly woman who fusses over us, handing us loads of paper work. My head is spinning, I hate orientations. I go to the bathroom.

There is a powerpoint presentation. All the usual things are included, including mission, values and rules. They spend a lot of time on the policy that no employee can have relationships with residents ever. This is not news to me, but I sit quietly with the other attendees. I am dismayed to find that the companies policy states that there is no vaping or smoking on campus by staff. I am addicted to my vape pen. Residents are allowed to smoke, but not staff. My last job had a dedicated “butt hut” for employees and we used to have fun conversations there.

I sign all the required paperwork and provide all the necessary documentation. After three hours we are finally allowed to leave. Why don’t employers give people 15 minutes for a break? It is hard to sit for long and the leader comments that we all look “glossy eyed”.

The leader tells me to report to my new supervisor which is a few miles away on a large ranch style property. I get lost again, finally find it and take a secret vape hit off my pen before going in.

I meet my new supervisor, who is young and very nice. She introduces several of the employees who are also therapists. I learn that I am going to work with female adolescents and I am pleased by this. I have always wanted to work with adolescents. She gives me a tour of the campus in a golf cart. I enjoy the ride, which is very bumpy. The campus is beautiful, it is hot as hell in the desert and it smells really good.

I finally meet some of the residents and this encourages me. The youngest one is 11. I introduce myself. They are creating art projects and there is a beautiful therapy dog with golden eyes.

My new supervisor returns us to our office. She announces that we are done for the day and it is only 3:00. I don’t really want to go home to my lonely apartment yet. She tells me the next task is to complete dozens of administrative classes on the computer. She gives me the option of doing them at home or at work and I tell her I would rather complete them there. She agrees.

She tells me to come back tomorrow at 8:00 am. The day will start with a staff meeting. I look forward to it because I want to learn more about the residents. I tell her I love drama and when patients act up and she tells me I will get plenty of that here. I am encouraged.

I tell myself things will get better. Maybe I will meet friends here. Maybe I will get used to this little town in the desert. Maybe I will like this job better than my last one.

One last thing: flip flops are not allowed. Neither are sleeveless shirts. My summer wardrobe is comprised of sleeveless tops so it looks like I am going to have to hit up some thrift stores for new clothes.


A New Chapter

I’m starting a new chapter in my life. I’m nervous and scared to death.

I moved to Wickenburg from Tucson. I loved Tucson and I had a good job there but it was boring. Boredom is my enemy. It causes my mind to wander into dangerous places. I asked my job to give me more responsibilities but each time I asked them they didn’t come through. So I decided to start looking for a new job. My ultimate goal is to return to California but I didn’t have enough money to go there.

I applied for this job in Wickenburg at the Meadows, which is a treatment center. My lease was up on my apartment and they raised the rent to 1500.00 for a one bedroom apartment. I declined to extend my lease so I needed things to happen fast. The Meadows called me right after I applied and the interviews went fast. After my second interview they called me a few days later and offered me the job. At first I was elated, the Meadows is highly regarded and I was honored that they offered me the job.

I had no idea how I was going to do the move and find a new place to live in a town I knew nothing about. But everything seemed to fall into place. I found a condo to rent just 10 minutes away from my new job. Its very nice and comfortable, quiet. I live among lots of senior mobile home parks that will apparently be filled with snowbirds when November comes around.

I don’t know what to think of this little town. It is filled with cowboys, and white entitled men. I’ve been yelled at twice now, called an idiot in parking lots of the grocery store for my awkward driving skills. I went to an AA meeting. There were 3 older men there, very pleasant people. I go to AA mainly to remind myself not to drink again because it destroyed my life before. I used to go to gay AA in Tucson and I met a lot of friends there.

I’m lonely as hell, but that is not new. I still long for a companion.

I start my new job tomorrow. I’m very nervous, and don’t know what to expect. My new job will eventually pay me 20K more than my last job and there is a 30,000 sign on bonus that they split over a period of two years. I wish they would give it to me in one lump sum but I think they are trying to retain people. I think it is because it is hard to find therapists who want to live in this tiny town.

I thought I would try writing again as a way to express myself and plan on making regular posts from now on.

The Journey

While I was homeless, I was alone almost all the time, except when I would commune with other homeless people. I was fortunate because because of the 6 month period I was homeless, I only had to sleep in my tiny car for two nights. It was terrifying. I learned a lot about survival. I was fortunate because my dear friend sent me money via western union so that I could avoid sleeping in my car. She enabled me, but in the end it was a good thing because otherwise I would have terminated my life.

During this time period I became obsessed with my body. The sounds it would make. I was terrified of breathing. Often I found myself gasping for air. I’ve been to several ENT’s now who have confirmed that I have a severely deviated septum. There is surgery to correct it but it sounds quite painful and I would have to miss a week of work.

Most of the time I was silent. After a few terrifying experiences with homeless people that I invited into my room, I became afraid of people in general. So I stopped speaking to everyone. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of going to the grocery store. I would dress in my black coat, my black hat, and hide from the world.

At times it is quite overwhelming to consider where I have been and where I am now. I have a beautiful apartment in one of my favorite places, Tucson. I’ve got a good job with a decent salary. I have purpose again. My work is gratifying. However, it exhausts me. My autoimmune disorder messes with me, causing me to deal with daily pain and fatigue.

My relationships have been restored. I lost a few friends along the way. It was sad, but necessary. Most importantly I restored my relationship with my son. He is visiting me now with his girlfriend, and it is glorious.

I feel like a human again, but often question myself. I have balance problems and a tremor and often find myself on the verge of toppling over. I grew a strong distaste for eating while I was homeless. I still don’t like it, but I force myself to.

It was quite difficult to log into my blog again. I had to go through several password resets and such. I have a low frustration tolerance for digital things. I look back over my past writings and I can’t believe I used to be such a good writer. Now the words come out clunky and unconnected, where as they used to just flow.

I’m experiencing a lot of job dissatisfaction. I took a beginners position, one below my level of qualifications. At first I was very unsteady, unsure if I knew how to be a therapist again. But it has all come back to me. But because of my lower status at work I find that I am not challenged enough. I often find myself at work twiddling my thumbs at work with nothing to do. It seems like a waste of my talent and gifts at times.

I do enjoy the camaraderie of my co-workers. I’m not sure if I want to continue to work in a rehab facility. I often find my own trauma triggered by the experiences of the residents and I have to see a therapist to debrief. And of course I am frustrated by the corporate ownership of the facility. They charge 60 thousand dollars for a thirty day stay. And yet the treatment is not on par with how much the residents have to pay. This will be a never ending difficulty for me as long as I work for corporate owned facilities.

I’m here for eight months and at the end of the time, I will most likely return to my beautiful glorious state of California near the Bay Area. I can make so much more money there, and the job possibilities are endless.

Thank you so much to anyone out there taking the time to read my blog.

Much love, and with no regrets, Tina

A New Beginning


I feel as though I don’t know how to write anymore. So I’m going to prove to myself that I can.

Where to begin?

Two years ago I was homeless, drunk, living out of my car and cheap hotels. I had completely lost my mind in the worst way possible. It was almost as if I was possessed. There is a reason they call alcohol a spirit. I was possessed by the spirit of alcohol, mixed up medications, and a severely out of whack thyroid that left me mildly psychotic. I was full of rage and fury. I was lost. I regressed to a very childlike state.

I learned a lot about survival, and terror. I was terrified to be alone in the world without protection. I lost a lot of friends in my severely impaired state. Friends are like a garden, and sometimes you have to pull the weeds out.

Now I find myself back to work as a therapist in a big fancy treatment center for trauma. I’m living in my spiritual home, Tucson, AZ. I’m no longer desolate, no longer depressed, but still very anxious.

I feel like I am still the same person yet very different. I lost a lot of motor skills and cognitive skills during that period. I developed a severe tremor that made it difficult to use my hands and fingers. I was convinced I would never work again. And yet…….

Here I am. Tina aka Raven.

Raven is my spiritual persona that knows how to survive. She/I move through the world very bird like. I’m still very hyper-vigilant after my experience, always looking around making sure there are no predators. Sometimes I CAW, and sometimes I chirp, and sometimes I coo and cackle.

I was convinced that I did not have another comeback in me. I turned 60 in January and was convinced my life was over. I had to adjust to not being homeless and being part of “normal’ life again. I’m still a scavenger, as I was on the road, holding onto things I don’t need “just in case”.

I have an apartment now, and am moving up to the West side to a deluxe apartment in the sky on Sept 6. A week after that my son and his girlfriend are coming to visit me. My life is full of riches. Life feels abundant and worth living again. How could this be? Only God knows.

I still have health conditions and pain everyday, but it is mild enough to be handled with ibuprophen, salt baths, and supplements. I have a team of doctors here in Tucson and am up to date on all of my medications.

My goal though out my life has always been to be calm. Now I often find myself calm, and it surprises me. I am often surprised by life now, and by myself. I sometimes feel afraid to settle into the goodness of it all.

I am longing for romantic companionship. It has been at least 7 years. I’ve joined some dating sites, have gone on some dates, and enjoyed them, but am no where near finding that special person yet. But I will continue looking until I do.

I work at a place that is located on 135 acres of sonoran desert. The scenery is breathtaking. In the evenings, I take a big boom speaker and my phone out to the soccer field and take requests from residents. We listen to music, people throw footballs around. The sun sets. And I think to myself, how can it be that I actually get paid to do this?

Flower Child, part 5

The Divorce

Less than a year passed from the New Year until the day my parents marriage ended. I know now that it had been ending for a long time, alcohol flowed like a river through their marriage until it was worn down, and one day it split as if an ax had come down on a dry piece of wood.

It was summer and my girlfriend and I were bored. Point Defiance was the popular hangout on the weekends, a large tip of land covered with acres of pine trees that looked out over cliffs onto sparkling expanses of Puget Sound. We needed a ride there. 

I found my dad in the front yard. The morning sunlight reflected of his bald head, making it shine like a sugar coated jawbreaker. When I called him, he startled.

“Dad, we want to go to the Point, can you drive us? I asked, flashing my most persuasive smile. If the smile didn’t work I would resort to pleading and cajoling. My Dad was a sucker for his youngest daughter, I was his only biological child. I knew by that age there was little I couldn’t get his to do for me. 

“Not today”, he mumbled, avoiding my gaze.

“But dad, we’re bored, and if you take me today I won’t ask you to take me for the rest of the week, and ….” I stopped short as he turned to face me. I squinted into the bright sun as I looked up, trying to get a glimpse of his face. I had learned to gauge his moods by then. If he had enough to drink he was a jovial man, not enough and the slightest provocation would throw him into a rage. His eyes, the same hazel green as my own, were usually a good indicator. 

As he looked down at me his eyes were clouded, watery. “I’m in trouble,” he said, nearly choking on his words. 

There was something beyond seeing my father cry for the first time that frightened me. Just beyond the tears threatening to well over his lower lids, I saw terror. He looked away quickly and retreated back into the darkness of the garage. 

I walked back into the house, slowly taking the steps up to the dining room, my feet feeling heavy as if coated with cement. My girlfriend left when I told her my dad wouldn’t drive us. I sat in the living room filled with my mother’s paintings, wondering when she would get home. My father remained in the garage.

I looked at the ceramic mortar and pestle that sat in the corner, holding a healthy green Pathos plant. It was white with the letters RX emblazoned across the front of it in Gold scroll. My mother loved the pathos plant because of its ability to thrive in spite of neglect. My dad had received the planter as a gift for his years of dedicated service to the drug company her worked for, where he labored for hours on end in huge rooms filled with monolithic computers. The turquoise clock above the kitchen sink ticked loudly, adding to the surreal quality the time I spent there waiting. 

Soon my mother trudged up the stairs as she returned home from art class. She wore her usual drab green and tan worsted wool coat over a white turtleneck. Her hair was brownish-blonde, no, “dishwater blond was what she called it. She hid her brilliant but icy blue eyes behind thick tortoise shell glasses. No one would have noticed that she was beautiful.

“Have you seen dad?” I asked. I searched her face to see if she understood that something was wrong. There was no indication. She wore her usual weary expression, lips turned down at the corners as she headed for the kitchen sink, lifting the bottle from beneath it in its brown paper wrapper. She muttered something under her breath as I heard Dad’s arduous footsteps coming up the stairs. The ice cracked as she poured the room temperature Rose over them.

“I was hoping we could all take a walk,” my dad said, looking plaintively at my mother. 

“What for? I’ve got a lot of things to do this afternoon—“ she began, not looking up, taking a long sip from her glass.

“It’s important” He said, “Please” he repeated his request. He was cracking now; I saw it start up near his forehead. He looked small to me, a boy of eight or ten, pleading for something needed desperately, unable to convey the urgency of his dilemma to my mother. 

“All right. Fine.” She shrugged back into her coat with great effort.

We walked down the stairs together, out the door, down the driveway. The sun was high in the sky by then but the shade of many evergreens kept the air cool. I could smell the forest, dust; I heard kid’s voices as they played carelessly in their backyards. I followed them as we walked silently to the trailhead in the woods near my house. My dad motioned for us to sit down. I shivered in the warm air as I sat on a tree stump. Its rough edges jutted into me.

His hands shook as he swung them, apparently not knowing where to start. He reminded me of the pictures I had seen of Nixon on TV right before he was implicated in the watergate scandal. A man who had been caught. Unlike Nixon, my dad made no attempts at a brave smile.

My mother sat rigid on her stump, her arms crossed. She looked at him with distaste, a look I had only seen washed away by several glasses of wine.Once he began, the words seemed to spill out of him. “I’ve been fired from my job. I was drinking cough syrup at work that had codeine in it and I was caught—caught stealing it.” He looked warily at us as he paused briefly. “I went to a clinic. They…they told me that I am not addicted”. He added the last part matter of factly; his tone implied that he was reassured by that news and that we should be too. He had taken a good news bad approach. The part about the clinic was the good news.

Confusion and fear spread through my young body, filling even the smallest spaces. 

What was my dad using codeine? He stole it? Did that make his a thief? What was going to happen to us? I looked over at my mother for clarification, I wanted someone to help me make sense of it, and I wanted reassurance.

But my mother was not looking at me. The furrows at the corners of her mouth deepened. “I want a divorce,” she spat between clenched teeth. She stood suddenly and started walking fast back to the house.

My father began sleeping in the basement, perhaps hoping my mother would change her mind, or maybe unsure of where he should go. Just a few days passed before my mother announced she was going out. She had given up her wool coat and thick glasses for a short flowing skirt and heels. The Eagles were big then. The song “Lying Eyes” was one of my favorites. It seemed clear my mom was going to see another man. I saw her as the betrayer. I felt bad for my Dad, who it seemed was hoping things would blow over. This arrangement went on for awhile until my Dad finally decided he was going to have to go live with his sister. So he left, and that left my Mom and I.

My mom asked me who I wanted to live with. I thought about it, but knew there was no choice except my Dad. But by then my Dad was unemployed, broke, not able to take me in. They had it written in the divorce that both parties agreed it would be in the best interest of the minor child to live with the father. So because of circumstances my mom kind of got stuck with me. 

My mom made it clear right away that the rules had changed. In so many words, and in so many less she made it clear she was done with the title and identity of “Mother”. All those years of holding herself back, suppressing her creativity, her sexuality, her self, had taken their toll. My mom was ready to cut loose.

My mother began dating frequently. I took advantage of her frequent absences by having friends over for parties. She often stayed out all night and then went straight to work, but one night she came home at the crack of dawn to change her clothes for work. She found the house strewn with beer bottles and assorted teenagers passed out, including me with a boy in her bed. I didn’t really understand why she was so angry. I was only living exactly as she was.

So I kept my boys out of her bed and after that I suppose there was a crazy rhythm that developed. She would party and have sex, I would party and have sex, and one time we even unknowingly had sex with the same man. One of my brothers friends, who was extremely attractive. It was a free for all. It was the 70’s, pre-AIDS, and drinking, drugging, and sex were on the table. That’s just the way it was.

My mom joined a group called Parents without Partners. I don’t know if there were any good or decent people in the group, I only met the ones that grant a lot and used the group as a singles dating service, trading partners at will. That’s what my mom did until she met Tom. Tom was 10 years younger than my mom and long brown sideburns down each side of his face that were reminiscent of the older Elvis. I could hear his tricked out Chevy van with its idyllic scene painted on the side chugging down our street when he would come to pick up my mother. The van was his only possession, that and a pair of worn western cowboy boots that sat in the dining room when he came over, their toes curled up like the shoes on the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.

I dreaded date night with Tom. When he and my mother would return from dinner and dancing they would repeat to what was once my parent’s bedroom, where the sounds of their frenzied passions went unrestrained. They never seemed concerned that my bedroom was right next door. Apparently Tom possessed talents that my father did not. My mother told me more than once about the visit her and father had made to a psychiatrist, apparently because my mother wanted sex and my father did not. “The Doctor told me I am not oversexed’”, she had informed me with a definitive tone. There is nothing wrong with me. 

My Mom and her boyfriend Tom would have sex raucously in the room next to mine. My mom would boast about her multiple orgasms the next day. She was making up for the dearth of sexuality that had been present in her marriage to my father, a man she had come to hate. 

So I lay there one night listening to my mom getting off in the bed she had shared with my father just a few months earlier. It was a cacophony. It was on one of those nights that I noticed the sound of my heart beating and became hyperaware of my breathing. I became terrified that if I were to go to sleep my heart would stop beating or my breath would cease. And that began the pattern, it seems, of the hyperanxiety, the terror, the obsessive compulsions.

Another passion that my mom and Tom shared was drinking. Tom liked Jack Daniels, he preferred to leave his sitting out on the kitchen counter as opposed to hiding it in a cabinet. And they both loved wine. They began making their own, something my mother and father had once done together. They turned one of the rooms in our house into a winery. The heat was always down in the rest of the house to conserve on finances but the wine room was warm and toasty. The small room was filled with the smell of yeast and the dripping sound of wine fermenting. Their wine was really strong, it could knock you on your ass with one glass. I know because my friends and I stole it when we didn’t have anything else to drink.

Tom was a parent in name only. He had two kids living somewhere, with one of his ex wives. “Mom and Tom”, as they so unaffectionately became known as, loved to talk about what a pain in the ass kids were. Ungrateful. Burdensome. When Tom moved in he wanted me out. And my mother made it clear to me that when he was move his needs were to come first. Only his music would be played on the stereo. BobWills and his country crooners. He would sit at the head of the table in what he claimed as his chair, chain smoking Pall Malls until thick tendrils of smoke filled the dining room. When we had family events, at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and my siblings would come to visit, everyone had to be sure not to sit in Tom’s chair, at the head of the dining table. If anyone did, he would pout and sulk, slam things about the kitchen and then give my mother the cold shoulder. 

In order to demonstrate his affectionate for my mother, Tom enjoyed putting on shows for her children. When any of us were present he would make out with my mom on the couch, where their loud smacking and cooing noises were over dramatized. Tom also enjoyed coming on to my girlfriends. My mom would just giggle and say, “Oh, Tom!” She thought he was so cute. Even though I hated his guts with every ounce of my adolescent body, one Christmas I went out of my way to get him a gift I thought he would enjoy, a Bob Wills album. He went to hug me after he opened it, and then he stuck his tongue down my throat. He tasted putrid like cigarettes butts that had marinated in stale beer. My mother simply looked the other way.

Tom seemed to make my mother happy. Her paintings went from dark and melodramatic to colorful and light. Their relationship lasted over a decade. I’m not one to begrudge my mothers happiness, or her seeming bad taste in partners after my father. I know now that she had unhappy in her marriage and that divorce set her free. But the timing was bad. Her need to relive her adolescence collided with my need for a mother, and I lost.

But if my mother was one thing, it was that she was consistent. She never apologized for her choices, and always considered herself as someone who gave the best years of her life to her children. For years I wanted my mother to acknowledge that she had made bad choices, but that day never came.

Several factors converged after that that made it easier for me to drink alcohol. My parents were largely absent, and not overly concerned with my drinking. The summer before my 10th grade year I spent almost every day at keg parties, coming home only to sleep, change, and eat. One day my mother asked, “What are you going to do when school starts and you have to sober up”? 

“Oh, I’ll manage”, I answered, my voice dripping with sarcasm. I basically did as I pleased. 

Flower Child, part 4


I remember distinct details from my childhood home. Shag carpet, green and white. Avocado kitchen appliances. burnt orange linoleum that had an octagon shape. I would put my foot singly in each one as I walked the dining room. There were fourteen stairs that I would take two at a time, counting as I climbed them. A turquoise clock above the kitchen sink. 

My mother was a painter. She was that before anything else. A talented and prolific painter, well known in her community, but not famous. The home I grew up in was filled with so many of her paintings that there was very little wall space. Landscapes of western Washington where we lived. Ocean scenes with sandpiper birds scattering at the edge of the water. Abstracts that looked like huge oyster shells. But mostly, portraits. Of us, her four children, my friends, the neighbor, or strangers she approached on the street; saying, “Can I take your picture? I’d love to paint you!”

By some quirk of genetic code, of my mother’s children, I turned out to be the one most like her. I have not always thought of that as fortunate. I was gifted with her artistic talent, which she nurtured in me by allowing me to attend her classes she taught in our basement. Nurtured is a strong word to use when describing my mother. Painting was one of the things she cultivated in me. I learned almost by osmosis the color wheel, and under her guidance how to mix colors. She taught that a face is equal to the length of a person’s hand, and how to suggest a line with the stroke of a brush. I loved the names of the paint colors; Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Sienna. They were part of my childhood as much as the alphabet, and learning to write. The smell of turpentine and linseed oil permeated the backdrop of my childhood. They were as familiar to me as the smell of alcohol on my parents breath.

I come from a long line of drinkers. My Dad’s father loved his whiskey, which he kept hidden in the garage among tools in his workbench. And my mom’s father was in and out of AA at least four times. As far back as I can remember I knew that my father’s drinking was not normal. On Sunday mornings before breakfast I would peer out from behind the comics when I heard the thin metal cap unscrewing from the glass bottle. I could see my Dad’s reflection the glass patio door as he stood in front of the liquor cabinet swigging directly from the bourbon bottle. My mother’s drinking was much less obvious. When we picked up milk from the store we would also pick up a bottle of Rose which she kept below the sink in a brown crinkled paper bag. She never drank before noon, and my father’s alcoholism was so blatant that it was easy to overlook to glass of wine she always kept within reach, the empty glasses in the sink stained with the deep red of her lipstick.

My parents were not the kind of alcoholics that I found lying about on the floor when I came home from school. My dad had a good job, my mom cooked dinner for us overnight. But alcoholism , ever insidious, seeped into every space of my childhood, leaving everything tinged a dark brownish gray, similar to the turbulent skies in one of my mother’s paintings.

The first time I drank hard liquor, it ran through the channels of my veins, igniting neurons and setting genetic markers spinning. It was 1974 and I was twelve. My brother and sister lived nearby in a communal house they shared with many of their friends. People were always coming and going and the air was thick with the smoke of marijuana and hashish. I thought it was the coolest place I had ever been.

It was New Years Eve and someone at their house needed a babysitter. What was left of the free love of the sixties ensured that their were always a few kids with dirty faces and low slung diapers running around. I brought Margaret and when we arrived the kids were already asleep. Somehow we had gotten our hands of a bottle of gin. We were going to start the New Year with slow gin fizzes, a syrupy sweet drink that slid down my throat as thick as jello. We drank several of them and when we ran out of gin and Seven-up we found a bottle of Whiskey and mixed it with milk.

I awoke the next morning when people began to move about the house. I was on the couch. My head felt like someone had laid it on an anvil and took a hammer to it. My mouth was dry like sandpaper. I hurt everywhere. My chin felt swollen and a muscle in it was twitching fervently. My sister was slouched in a tattered chair near the couch, staring at me with an unsure look upon her face. “I see you are finally coming to’” she said. 

“What happened?”, I groaned, squinting to shield my eyes from the bright sunlight coming into the room through a large window that was littered with plants in macrame hangers. 

“You got wasted,” she said plainly. “That’s what happened. The party moved here after midnight and when we got here you couldn’t even walk. Wait…. you don’t remember?”

I closed my eyes and tried to recall the night before. I remembered the nasty taste of whiskey mixed with milk. “I don’t remember anything after the whiskey,” I said, putting my hand up to feel the muscle or nerve in my chin that was still jumping to some maniacal beat. 

“I saw you go into the bathroom with some guy,” she said, her eyes widening. “You were almost passed out and he had your shirt half off. I tried to get you to drink some coffee, put you in the shower. You fell and slammed your chin against the bathtub.” She nodded her head back and forth in disbelief.

“Wow, I said. That explained my chin, now throbbing. “How could all of that have happened and I don’t remember?”

“You had too much, Tina, you’ve got to be careful.” She went into the kitchen to get some coffee, parting the brown beads that hung in the doorway. One of the kids ran by, his butt crack peeking out from the diaper. I cringed as he gleefully yelled something unintelligible.

Maybe some people who had a night like mine might consider it a warning sign. That was not the case with me. I wanted more of the delightful substance that altered everything about my experience. Alcohol made me happy, gleeful, and in my own mind, alluringly attractive. The blackout? I just figured I would never mix whiskey with milk again. 

Alcohol was always readily available, there were always older guys at the parties who could buy kegs for us. And finally, I loved alcohol. It’s scent hazardly rushing up my nose. The harshness of it as I sent it down my throat and the heat it sent through my body warming my parts that had ever felt cold and frozen. It seemed to be the missing piece in the composition of me.

All of my friends drank, although looking back I’m not sure that many of them were as enthusiastic as I was about it. I didn’t see much difference between the way I drank and the way my friends drank, except for that fact that they seemed to always remember what happened the night before, I often did not. I wasn’t one of those kids I’d see on the After School specials who carried alcohol to school in the thermos and hid it in their lockers. I only drank on the weekends for the most part, and I considered that normal.

I also started using drugs. It started with marijuana. I got it from my older brother, we were very close by then. I will never forget the time my brother cracked open a pound of weed on the breadboard in my mother’s kitchen. He sold weed because it was profitable and provided him with a steady supply. In junior high Margaret and I would deal his weed to our friends. Margaret showed me how to cut it with Oregano and then we could skim what we wanted off the top.

Flower Child, part 3


She was my first introduction to the fact that there was life beyond my dull suburban 12-year-old existence. Margaret, also 12, marched undaunted that summer into our neighborhood cul-de-sac, named “Tara” by some optimistic land developer, and immediately garnered the attention of all who lived there. Bubbling over with effervescence, charm, and raw beauty, she epitomized everything I had ever dreamed of being. Stunningly beautiful and developed well beyond her age, she captivated me with her brilliance. Although only 12, she had left her first steady boyfriend behind in the move. She tantalized me with stories of french kissing, slow gin fizzes, and cigarettes. She wrote poetry on the walls of her tree house and taught me that Je’taime means “I love you” in French. I grasped onto Margaret as if she were my last dying breath. She was the first person to ever make me feel valuable.

The upstairs of Margaret’s house was filled with wall to wall glass cases containing delicate miniature sculptures of Asian architecture from Margaret’s mother’s native Korea. Margaret was an Army brat. Her American father had met her Korean mother in the service. Their house was like a museum. Her mother collected Hummel’s and had them in glass cases around the edges of the living room. I was afraid to touch anything, but I stared hard, at all the little German ceramics and the tiny carved sculptures Margaret’s mother had collected while in Korea. A wall clock ticked ominously in the corner, bellowing out hourly sing-song pronouncements of passing time. The room was crowded with elegant plump white furniture; I avoided it after my legs stuck to it in the heat of the summer. 

The dining room set was solid and formal, and only used for important company. Small bags of marinated meat hung from spider like nets in the corners of their house. The first time I tasted some of that meat (bulgogi), I understood Margaret’s mother had at least one redeemably quality other than her rare smile. Rice simmered continuously on a modern rice cooker near the table in the kitchen where their family ate. Margaret would sometimes offer me small bits of unidentifiable food items and laugh at the faces I would make, after the fact when she told me it was squid or some other kind of sea creature.

Margaret’s father was retired from the Army, but I’d often see him working in his yard in his camouflage fatigues, sweat glistening from the tips of his regulation crewcut. His small den in the basement of their home, kitty corner from the well stocked bar, was plastered with certificates and medals from his time in the service. He affectionately called Margaret “punkin”, with all the tenderness a former army man could muster. Margaret’s father had met her mother during the Korean war. All through my adolescence I would hear Margaret’s mother’s voice echoing through in her thick Korean accent.  “Margalet… come do some work!” Failure to properly remove all traces of the small bit of soapy gunk from around the kitchen faucets would result in a beating. Her mother would sometimes retreat to bed for days at a time, feigning illness of one sort or another. Margaret was required to wait on her during these episodes. Margaret’s father doted on his wife, who under the best of circumstances could be called a bit of a tyrant. When she smiled the whole room would light up. But it took a lot to make her smile.

Margaret was the kind of beautiful I had only seen in magazines. I always considered it sheer dumb luck that Margaret chose me for a friend. Standing next to her, in her shadow as I did, never gave me a chance to shine. Yet I’ll never be sure if I would have searched so hard to find out who I was if I had not had such a dramatic model of who I was not.

Margaret was everything I had ever dreamed of being. Her hair was shiny blue-black, the kind you only see on commercials for shampoo. My own hair was dark as well, but it lacked her luster. Margaret’s skin was tinted the color of iced mocha, a blessing from her mixed heritage parents. My skin was pale and freckled, and looked pasty next to Margaret’s warm tone. Her legs were muscular and virtually hairless, while my legs had grown a thick blanket of dark hair that my Dad had refused to let me shave off. The green of Margaret’s eyes was a color I had never seen before, her iris’ lined perfectly in ivory black. She was more than well developed for her age, and she knew how to display her assets aplomb. My breasts remained stubbornly flat, no matter how much I practiced the exercises in magazines promising to make them come to life.

Margaret was not only beautiful, she was exotic. I never understood why Margaret took me under her wing. She told me I was pretty and when she befriended me I felt a strong need not to disappoint her. I knew that I was the lucky one, the one to receive her notes in her curious back-slanted hand writing, the notes she always signed, “I love you”. If someone like Margaret loved me, that meant that I was special in some way. I was convinced of it even if I didn’t understand it. The boys in the neighborhood began falling over themselves trying to get her attention. She was coy. She knew her worth. Or so it seemed.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of new things, but the very first thing was cigarettes. From the first drag I was in love… with cigarettes and with Margaret. But I didn’t know that. I knew I loved cigarettes, yes. They made me feel so cool, so rebellious, so in control. All I knew about Margaret was that I wanted to be around her constantly, for any reason, at any time, at any season. Margaret became everything to me. 

We would go to the local convenience store (which we dubbed the “stop and steal” for obvious reasons). There was a vending machine in a restaurant nearby. Put in your money, out came cigarettes. Marlboro 100’s. No ID required. Then we wood go out in the woods and drink Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine (just ask people in front of the Stop and Steal to buy the booze). And we would make Slow Gin Fizzes, whatever those were. 

The first time I smoked a cig it was with Margaret. I was nervous but so excited that I was doing this big adult rebellious thing. From the first inhale, I was hooked. That first puff, the rush, the feel of smoke in my lungs.

I was never very clever at hiding things and my first smoke would not prove to be the exception. We had gone to a gravel pit near my house, presumably hidden. But there is something about being that age and smoking that makes you want to go public with it. Like, look what a bad ass I am, smoking a cigarette.

Well it just so happened that my mom happened to be driving home from an art gig right by the gravel pit. She saw me and I saw her and I knew there was gonna be hell to pay. My mom waited til’ after dinner to spring the situation. She told my Dad, who I can’t recall his reaction. I only remember my Mom’s. She was furious, seething. 

“You’re a slut,” she said. 

I was surprised by that one. For one thing, I was still a virgin. But I was a smoker. That made me a slut, I guess, in my mom’s eyes. 

My father sternly said, “Barbara”.

She stormed off into her room. Well, their room. 

I modeled myself after Margaret. When school began, Margaret, with her beauty and fitness was immediately in with the “cool” kids. And that made me a “cool” kid by proxy. I constantly felt out of place, understanding that I was only with these kids because of Margaret. I abandoned all of my old friends for my new “cool” ones out of necessity. I was part of the elite. A person most unlikely.

Boys never seemed to be into me. Not in the way they were to Margaret. I was slow to develop. Standing next to Margaret I looked like an ugly duckling next to a swan. I was in that chubby awkward brace-face stage of adolescence and Margaret was lithe, magical and savvy.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of things. Lots of the things she did didn’t make sense to me, but I did them, because well, Margaret.

One of the things we would do was go out in the middle of the night and vandalize people’s property. I didn’t understand the point of it, but I did it. We would switch garbage can lids up, smash mailboxes. It scared the crap out of me and made me feel bad about myself.

When school began (eighth grade) Margaret quickly rose to the top of the social echelon. And I was her hanger on. I knew I was in the most popular group of kids at school only by proxy.

I knew I didn’t have what these other girls had. The boobs, the cute little bodies, the eyelashes, the hair. The boys in this group were interested in the girls with the hair that looked like Farrah Fawcett. And I was more like the androgynous one. Except chubby and with braces. 

The boys that did express interest in me were awkward and clumsy. I wanted the boys with the hair. The long, rock star feathered hair. I really wanted Margaret, but I had no concept of that at the time.

One of Margaret’s highly developed skills were in shop lifting. She was small in stature, but she wore a long black trench coat that made her look about 6 feet tall. No one ever missed Margaret, not if they were anywhere within her vicinity.

I was an awkward shop lifter at best. I hated it. And my timing was horrible. We decided to shop lift on the military base. I got caught of course, because I am horrible at stealing. I was banned from the base for life, and Margaret’s mom didn’t think much of me after that. She was already tired of me hanging around all the time begging for some the meat hanging from the ceiling.

Many of our friends were running for cheerleader. That wasn’t my thing. Margaret decided to run for President of the Student Body. She convinced me to run for something. I wasn’t interested in the position, I only wanted it because it would make me more popular.

The people with clever speeches were the one’s who won. I had my mom make me a banana suit. I wrote my speech to the tune of the Chiquita banana song, and I won. Margaret did not win, but was very gracious about the fact that I did. My popularity increased tenfold when I was elected to be secretary of the Student Body. I felt like a celebrity. Everyone knew who I was, I was dubbed the “Chiquita girl”. 

I felt like a fraud. I stopped showing up for meetings and eventually got kicked out of the position because I got caught smoking in the girl’s bathroom, which oddly enough made me more popular because it made me somewhat notorious.

Margaret eventually became weary of my hanging on. I became jealous of her spending time with other girlfriends. I modeled my behavior after Margaret. Sometimes I would pretend I was her. She began to distance herself, probably understanding my attraction for her was more than just friendly.

Charlie’s Angels was that show that gave me the first idea that I might be a lesbian. I didn’t know lesbians actually existed. But I knew that I was fascinated by the Angels. Of course all of us were. But my feelings led me to confess to Margaret that I thought I might be a lesbian.

That pretty much killed our relationship. I took it all back later, of course, after her reaction.

Flower Child , chapter 2


Moving terrified me, but it proved to have some definite advantages. 

When I was 8 we moved to a new house in a new neighborhood. It was my mother’s dream home, with a painting studio in the basement where she could teach her art lessons. The house was surrounded by old growth forest…. and it was there that I found peace for the first time in my life. There was a path behind the house that went deep into the woods. The only sounds I would hear were the sounds of the forest and the birds. I discovered that if I walked it and went up and over a hill there was a pond. In the pond I found frogs and salamanders that I would take home with me. We grew tadpoles in the backyard swimming pool. In spite of the fact that my parents marriage was strained, my father was an alcoholic who beat my half-brother, and everything else…it was the happiest and safest time of my life. With my older half siblings gone, my mom started to actually mother me. She taught me how to cook, made me clothes, taught me to paint. She did everything mothers would do… for awhile. Except for the affection and closeness part that you might hope for. That was never there, and I came to understand that it never would be.

Although we stayed in the same small town in western WA, the new house was a dramatic upgrade. It had two stories, four bedrooms, a garage for my fathers tools and an unfinished basement that my father planned to turn into an art studio for my mother so that she could teach classes. But the best thing about the house was that it was in a neighborhood subdivision that had been carved out of old growth forest. Hence, the subdivision name: Tara. We lived at the end of the street so in the back and on the side of the house were miles and miles of untouched forest land.

My oldest sister was gone and married, my other sister was in the foster care system, and by now my brother was running away like my sister used to. He spent time in the local juvenile detention center for selling drugs at school. Eventually he was gone too, moving in with his girlfriend who was pregnant. By that time my oldest sister had also given birth to a son.

In first grade my mom decided that I was the spitting image of Eddie on “The courtship of Eddie’s Father”. She sent a letter to the television network telling them that I should be on the show and included a picture. I think they sent her back a nice “thanks but no thanks” letter. Maybe that’s one of the ways she showed her love for me, by attempting to pass her own dream to me. Maybe she saw me as her last shot at entering the entertainment industry.

My mother, father and I settled into what would be the most stable time of my life. With my older siblings gone, and my father working, my mom was free to pursue her passions of painting, teaching, entering art shows and other crafty things. My mother was a good cook and we had dinner every night when my Dad came home, albeit often a silent one. But there was a closeness of sorts that developed between the three of us. A closeness that had never been present prior to that time. And there was a comfort, in our new home, in the size of it. On weekends we would make popcorn, drink Cokes and watch Carol Burnett. It was the closest thing to normal I have ever known. 

Flower Child

I was going to continue writing about the present and my progress so far. But my writing seems rote and mechanical, where it used to feel lyrical. I’ve lost some of my motor coordination. So instead, I decided to publish the first chapter of my book, a memoir, which I started writing right before my father died in 2006.

Chapter One The house on Park Avenue 

Blessed is the child who does not know her worth, for she will spend the rest of her life searching for it 

I was born in a chocolate brown house with pink and white trim like Neapolitan ice cream. I was the fifth child my mother bore. The first three, Rachel, Leslie, and Ron, were adopted by my father Neil when he married my mother Barbara. The fourth child, John, my biological brother, died shortly after birth. If he had lived I wouldn’t be here today because my mom wanted to give my father a child, meaning one child only. It may have been the only act of kindness my mother did for my father; besides marrying him. 

My parents met in a bar. My father lived at that bar when he wasn’t working. My mom used to tell me she was happy that at least she got him out of the bar. I guess that makes three good things she did for him. Marrying him and then bearing two of his children. 

When my mom met my dad she was a single parent struggling to support her three children. Her first husband, a musician whom I suspect was my mother’s one true love, had abandoned her and my future siblings by the time the oldest was 5. Both my parents were born at the beginning of the great depression. This may have been one of the only things they had in common besides drinking and dancing. They both understood struggle and loss. 

After my mother’s death I saw some of her hand written journal entries from a time when she was attempting to write her own memoir. She described how much of a mistake it was to marry my dad, that people had warned her and she should have listened. My mother had found someone to adopt her children and support them. Being a single parent myself I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I don’t know if my mother ever loved my father. My father told me years later that she needed a meal ticket. She found one in my father whose work ethic was beyond reproach, in spite of his heavy drinking. 

There were already a lot going on in the family before I was born. My father was beating my 6-year-old brother Ron on a regular basis in an alcoholic rage. He also took out his anger out on 8-year-old Leslie. The oldest, Rachel, 12, escaped the beatings but was forced to witness them, as they often occurred around the family dinner table. To top it off, there was the loss of their first child a year prior. My mother carried the baby to term but was told he had a problem with his heart that would only allow him to live for a few days. 

My parents allowed him to die alone at the hospital. Not because they were hateful uncaring people, it was really quite the opposite. They were devastated by the situation and the emotions attached. My parents were both wounded people who had learned to turn away from their pain in order to survive. And if our family had a motto, it would have been to never speak of things that were emotionally difficult. A person can only tolerate so much loss. 

I was sexually violated by a family member prior to the age of 5. These incidents left me with an understanding of myself that would take years to uncover. I learned that in order to get my needs met I would have to use the only tool I had: my body, at whatever the cost. I learned to question my own reality. Someone I had been taught to trust was doing things to me that I knew were not right, but there wasn’t anyone to tell or to ask what to do. If I told anyone they would surely not believe me or find that I had enticed it. Maybe I did entice it? 

The collision of the violation with learning to trust would leave me unsure who was safe and who wasn’t. If someone showed caring and interest in me, I would get confused and think I had to offer them my body. I learned that the most abnormal was normal. In doing so I had to explain away the misdeeds of a loved one, and make them OK in my small child’s brain. For years after I didn’t understand warning signals from people that I wanted to trust, and as I result I found myself in a variety of dangerous situations. 

Before the sexual abuse, I was a tap and ballet dancer. I loved the costumes, especially the sequins. After the incidents I developed a desire to hide my body shape. I thought that if I was un-noticeable then maybe I could avoid future incidents. I learned how to make myself invisible. 

In Kindergarten one day we were going to play dodgeball. I was terrified. The thought of having a ball thrown at me with no escape made me feel “the” feeling. The feeling of being out of control, immobilized and unable to escape. The feeling I would spend most of my life running from. 

The teacher sent me and another boy to the classroom to get more balls and I saw it as my escape. I convinced the boy that we should just leave and go home. We both lived about three blocks away. I knew we were going to get in trouble, but all I could see was an opportunity to avoid being pummeled by an inescapable rubber ball. Of course, there was trouble. I can recall the teacher saying, “Billy had to walk home across streets where there were no crossing guards.” I don’t recall anyone asking me why I might be afraid of a dodgeball, or anything else for that matter. Even if they did I don’t know what I would have said. I already felt that there were things about me that were abnormal, unlike other people. And now I had put some other kid in danger because of my unexplainable fears. I was the instigator, so I was at fault. This would not be the last time I would be given this title. 

My bedroom was at the very top of the peaked roof house on the second floor of the house on Park Avenue. A giant Oak tree was planted squarely in front of the two picture windows of my room. In the corner there was a cubby hole big enough for two people to lie down in. The cubby hole was my secret hiding place. 

When I was five my mother’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a chef at a landmark restaurant near Seattle. He dropped dead while he was at work. I wanted to go to the funeral but my mom said I couldn’t. I sat on a bench in the gym and looked out the high windows, wondering if he might go floating by. 

My mother will always be an enigma to me. From all appearances, she seemed to lack one of the qualities we often think of as instinctual in mothers. She didn’t seem to know how to nurture and protect her children. 

My mom was not shy about discussing her feelings about parenting. She shoveled in the guilt and washed it down with baked goods. “Parenting,” she would often tell us, “stole the best years of my life”. My mom loved babies and was OK with them until they began to talk and move around. My mom was very sensitive to noise. Her dream had always been to be a famous singer and movie star. She declared children to be the antithesis of achieving her dream. If it wasn’t for us, she could have been a star. 

In my early childhood, my mom wanted me to be on television. When I was about 4, she got me on the Miss Margaret show to do a tap-dance to “I’m a little T-pot. I liked being the center of attention. I also loved Miss Margaret. 

My mom seemed to value my cuteness and my ability to entertain. But other aspects of my personality she deemed temperamental, moody and antisocial. I never got the sense that she was particularly fond of me. I had a vivid nightmare around this time that my mom let me go down the drain with the bathwater. My mom accused my Dad and everyone else, of spoiling me. To her I was a spoiled rotten brat. Maybe I was, I don’t know. 

Maybe I reminded her of my father. Maybe it was too hard to watch someone else get something that they wanted. Maybe I was a symbol of the mistake she had made by marrying my father and thus imprisoning herself for that many more years. 

There were quite a lot of things going on around that time. For one, the entire country was in turmoil as the 60’s began to set in. My siblings were hippies with love beads, bell bottoms, and long hair. I wanted to be a hippie more than anything else. My sister Leslie began running away from home repeatedly. She would run, they would go get her from where she had gotten to (sometimes a state away), and bring her home. Then it seemed like she would turn right around and run again. I’m not saying she didn’t have good reasons to run. Then she got pregnant and was sent to an unwed mother’s home to live in shame until she gave birth to the baby and released her to adoption. At some point in the process my mom decided to wash her hands of it by making my sister a “ward of the court”. That’s what they call it when a mother releases a child to the foster care system. 

That was the first time I realized my mom had more than a chill in her soul. 

When I was 6 my oldest sister Rachel moved to California to marry her high school boyfriend. Later she would tell me she would have done anything to get out. That left just my brother and I at home. We had a contrary relationship like many siblings, I guess. As my brother got older my father’s contempt for him only seemed to grow. Until the day came when my brother was finally old enough/big enough to stand up to my father. And when that day came the beatings stopped. 

My father was always on the verge of explosive rage. In response, I learned to always be on edge waiting for the explosion. After awhile it didn’t matter if there was an explosion coming or not, I was always cringing. I loved my Dad, and unlike my mom I knew that my Dad loved me. But I was terrified of the person he became so often without provocation, or rhyme or reason. 

The house we lived in had a kids playhouse in the backyard and a combination garage/art studio designed to allow my parents expressions of their passions. For my dad it was alcohol and sports, and building things. For my mom it was painting. I guess my mom didn’t know that he was stashing alcohol in the garage. When I was an adult my mom told me that once she had gone in my dad’s “man cave” looking for something and had found dozens and dozens of empty and full bottles of hard liquor. Probably bourbon, maybe vodka. 

My mom did her drinking out in the open so she was pretty upset by my dad’s hidden stash, as she told me. Maybe that was the first moment she realized just how serious my dad’s drinking problem was. Or maybe that’s when she began to hate him. Hell, if I had been her I would have hated him for it also. 

By the time I was 7 I had completely disengaged from my soul. I scrunched it into a tight little ball like the roly-poly bugs I loved to play with. I buried it deep down inside of myself in the chasm of darkness that lived there. 

One day I came home from school and saw a bright red for sale sign on the house on Park Avenue. My parents had told me before that we were moving, but the sign made it real to my 7-year-old mind. I ran into the house, fearful, crying, seeking solace that I knew would not be met. 

My mother marched me sternly upstairs to my bedroom. “I don’t want to hear another word out of you,” she hissed. I had learned two valuable lessons that had ensured my survival up to the seventh year of my life. One was to be cute and the other was to be funny. That day I learned the third. Be silent.

My Covid Meltdown, part 4

I left Tucson and headed back towards California. My belongings were still stored in Santa Rosa, and I still felt as though it might be possible to find an affordable living situation there.

I headed to Santa Rosa and got some of my belongings out of storage. It was good to have them. I enjoyed visiting my storage because it reminded me of when I had a home.

But the cost of hotels in Cali were high, and I was still drinking, unable to gather myself enough to find housing. I was in a downward spiral on falling behind financially, because the hotels were costing me $60-$80 dollars a night. The cost of housing in and around Santa Rosa also seemed too much for me to afford. I decided to drive North, thinking that the cost of housing would go lower, and I would still be in Cali, but nearer to my son. I was missing him tremendously by then. I always feel a horrible hole in my gut when I can’t see him on a regular basis.

I went to Fort Bragg and began staying in the Motel 6. It was really a wonderful place. I fell in love with it. At that time of year, the end of November, the costs were reasonable. I started meeting a lot of people who were in similar situations. Women in my age group who had once had careers, had lost them for one reason or another and had become homeless. They would tell me about how their search for affordable housing in that area had failed. It was very competitive, and there were very few places available. I was discouraged.

I met a lot of nice people at the beach there. I was inspired every morning to drive to the beach and watch the sunrise, and then again at night to watch the sunset. There were huge ravens at the beach that I would watch. They made all sorts of cool noises. I stayed for about a week, and then headed back to the Santa Rosa area again.

There were two nights during that period where I had to sleep in my car. I was lucky, because I was in a campground, but it was terrifying to find myself in that position. I had no camping gear, and it was extremely cold at night. I had no tent, and one dog and two cats with me. I tried to let the cats out but they would try to escape so I had to keep them in their kennels. I had a very small car. I would put the cat kennels in the back seat, and try to sleep cramped into the small space in the back seat with my dog.

I decided to try going North again looking for affordable housing. I went to Yreka and Weed. Both places had hotels that were about 50 bucks a night. But still, no affordable housing. One day I decided to try Reno. I drove there. I really liked it there, but I was too scared to look for housing and it was very cold there. By now it was December.

I always stayed in budget hotels. I got used to the sounds of sirens, people yelling, and people doing meth in the parking lot. One night at a hotel I was smoking in my car and a guy came up on me that was high. He stuck his head in the window of my car and was talking gibberish. I was terrified. Finally he left. I told the security guard about it, and he told me the people in that guy’s room were being watched by the police.

After that, I decided to stop talking to people at the hotels I stayed at. By then I could see I was placing myself in dangerous situations. I started to become afraid of all people.

My friend Margaret, who by the grace of God was still helping me financially, offered me housing in Albuquerque, where she lived. Her sister and brother in law’s house was empty and they were going to allow me to stay there for three months, rent free, just paying for utilities. I saw it as my only choice. I wanted to see Margaret, and I wanted housing, but I didn’t want to be in Albuquerque. I had lived there for 10 years. My son was born there and my father died there. I had a lot of traumatic memories from that time.

I spent Christmas in Yreka, CA at the Motel 6, waiting for my next check. I left Yreka on December 27th and headed for Albuquerque. The drive was excruciating. I was in a lot of pain. I was still drinking. It seemed to take forever. One day I stopped for gas, and I couldn’t find my wallet. I was in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Orchards. I searched everywhere for my wallet in my car and couldn’t find it.

I called my friend Margaret and told her what happened. She couldn’t send me any money via western union because without my wallet I didn’t have the ID to pick it up. I was trapped and in a panic. I had no idea what I was going to do. I felt like I wanted to kill myself. I knew in that moment, that my drinking had led to me losing my wallet. I was confused and disorganized and I had been careless. Finally I pulled myself together enough to search further in my car for my wallet. I finally found it tucked behind one of the seats. It was a coming to Jesus kind of moment. I was so relieved. I felt horrible about what I was putting Margaret through, who was desperately trying to help me. I had been honest with her about my drinking and we both knew I needed to stop. It was that moment, on December 28 of 2020, that I dumped the alcohol I had left and stopped drinking.

Prior to that, I had stopped drinking hard liquor. Hard liquor is poison to me, I understand that now. I had been weaning myself off of the alcohol by drinking beer, wine, and hard seltzer. But I stopped all of it that day. I had terrible withdrawal symptoms. Shaking, anxiety, all of it.

Somehow I made it to Albuquerque. I was so looking forward to seeing Margaret and her family. Margaret and I met while our sons were infants in the Baby’s R Us breastfeeding room. We became fast friends instantly. But we had not seen each other in 10 years.

I arrived and met Margaret at what would be my next home. It was so good to see Margaret and the home was beautiful. It was huge, had several bedrooms and a nice backyard. I felt so blessed and fortunate for the opportunity. I unpacked my few belongings and attempted to settle in.

The house was very quiet. I enjoyed listening to the calls of mourning doves and watching roadrunners. But I was having full blown anxiety attacks all of the time. It was a big adjustment to go from the life I had been living out of my car, to have a home.

I had adapted a lot of habits from being homeless. I was used to having a checkout time of 11 am each day. I would get up early to prepare. I had to get the cats in their kennels and into the car, the dog walked, etc. I would start to panic about 3pm each day, knowing that it was going to get dark, and that I would need to find another hotel that I could afford. I didn’t want to sleep in my car again.

I discovered a lot of issues that confront people that are homeless. People who were truly homeless, who didn’t have a car, would remind me that I should be grateful that I had one. I learned that if the phone wasn’t charged, I was dead in the water. If I didn’t have a hotel, I couldn’t charge it. Due to Covid, I couldn’t plug my phone in or anything because there was no indoor seating. I would charge my phone in the car, but sometimes I would forget. I met a lot of homeless people who didn’t have anywhere to charge their phones. They would ask convenience store people if they could charge their phones there. Bathrooms were also a huge problem. Again because of Covid, most bathrooms were closed. I had to learn to go outside, no matter the circumstances. It was very humbling. Homeless people, in my opinion, need phone charging stations, and at the very least portapotty’s to use. This seems like an important public health issue to me.

Learning to live in a home, adjusting to it, seemed very strange. I knew it wasn’t my home, so I wanted to be very careful about respecting the property that these kind people were offering me.

I was having a lot of difficulty breathing, all the time. I also had lost all sense of taste and smell. Eating became a chore. All food tasted disgusting. My jaw seemed to be locked in a permanent position and I could only eat soft foods. My friend Margaret had stocked the house with food for me, and I could barely tolerate any of it. Margaret and her family had all had Covid. When I compared my symptoms with Margaret, it seemed likely that I had gotten it also. We both experienced difficult breathing, fatigue, and a strange thing called “Covid toe”. The little toe on my left food developed a thick scab on the bottom of it and was painful.

I would have panic attacks whenever I had to leave the house to go to the store. It seemed as if people around me were normal. Everyone else seemed to be adjusting with Covid and going on with their lives. I felt isolated, alone and severely abnormal. When I would wear my mask in the grocery store I would get light headed and almost fell a few times. This was the first time in my life that I had felt so isolated from other people, so outside of what was normal.

I was missing my son so much. I’d never been away from him for so long before. I made a decision to return to Corvallis, OR, where I had lived before, to be close to him. I left Albuquerque on February 16. I arrived in OR a few days later and felt dread in the pit of my stomach. I left Corvallis intentionally. It was another place that held very difficult memories for me. Illness, poverty, and the contentious custody battle with my Ex. During my drinking I had sent horrible texts to my son. I wanted to make amends with him.

It was pouring down rain when I arrived. I met my son at a Safeway parking lot and we sat and had a cigarette together. I felt so very nervous. But I was so grateful to see him. I could see that he was building a life for himself, and seemed to be doing well. He was also very understanding about my relapse.

I left Corvallis the next day, I was intending on looking for housing in a nearby town. But once again, I fled. I just felt compelled to get out of Oregon. I decided to go back to Albuquerque and try to get grounded there. I decided to go a different way this time, bypassing most of California. I went through Nevada and Utah. I saw many beautiful scenes there. And the hotels were very inexpensive. I would look for housing at each place I stopped, but they were small towns and availability was scarce.

One day Margaret called me and told me that the house I had been staying had developed a water leak and that the house had become uninhabitable. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. But I decided to keep going to Albuquerque anyway. I knew Margaret was there, and that she would help me in finding housing.

I got back to Albuquerque and stayed just a few days. I saw Margaret and that was good. But I was restless and feeling the need to flee again. I didn’t want to trap myself in Albuquerque. I left, heading again back to California. I went back to Weed, CA, which was near Oregon. I set myself up in the Motel 6 there.

I finally understood that I was not going to find housing in California. I once again set out for Corvallis. I arrived and set myself up in a budget hotel. One night I was staying there and someone was shot in the parking lot.

I started a diligent housing search. I found an apartment in Corvallis that I could afford, the rental process was easy, despite my fears. Dear Margaret again had to help me with the deposit and first and last months rent.

That was on May 3rd of this year. In my next post I will be writing about my progress thus far and my plans for the future.