I find it nearly impossible to live in my own head for too long. If I am not actively doing something, reading, looking at my phone or the computer, my brain races. I drown in memories, and cannot escape the pictures in my head. I cannot lie in bed too long in the morning for fear of my own thoughts. If I am not tired enough when I go to bed, I cannot lie there because my thinking overcomes and defeats me. I try to block the images, but to no avail.
During the last couple days, I began reading a book I read years ago. “What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day,” by Pearl Cleage. Great book. I often reread books I once enjoyed because it ignites my writing. The book describes a woman who, in finding out she is HIV positive, returns to the small town she grew up to find a run-down mess of a neighborhood. Houses filled with young men and women and their crack addicted, screaming babies. The oddly sweet, peppermint smell of crack she described brought back vivid memories for me. Euphoric recall us addicts say. Waking up to realize I had my 2nd consecutive night of using dreams, I knew I needed to re-shelf that book. I also woke up last night after having night mares separate from the using dreams. They felt so real when I was disrupted by them, but I can no longer remember their contents. My tossing and turning woke up my girlfriend; she had to escort me to the bathroom. I was too afflicted to walk across the hall alone.
Nor can I get the images from Breaking Bad out of my head. I only made it through the 2nd episode of season two and I am not sure I can continue. The scenes where Jesse is smoking meth haunt me. I can see it and feel it as though it is real. The powder, the pipes, the inhaling and exhaling of white smoke. I remember how paranoid he was peering out that deceitful window. I have been in that place of darkness and I hate thinking about it. I wish I could erase the images from my tarnished head. They will never leave. I know this because I have withstood traumatic experiences since I was a teenager. “Just give it time,” people say. When I believed in the power of prayer a long time ago, I used to pray for the images to abandon me. Others would pray over me, lay hands on me, commanding the flashbacks to leave, that Satan himself pull his talons out of me. Is that like “praying the gay away?” Is that like Michele Bachmann saying natural disasters are God’s way of getting the attention of sinners such as myself? Maybe she and her cuckoo companions should pray harder the next time a tsunami nears.
When I sat down to write this, I had no idea I would take this direction. But while I am on the subject, let me elaborate on my seeming resentment of the so-called power of prayer. I went to church for seven years with my ex before the massive and unforgettable relapse of 2007. You know how they say ‘you pick up where you left off’ when you abuse drugs or alcohol? That cannot be more true. The intention was to get high and stop before the end of the 3 day weekend. Memorial Day weekend. It stretched into an ongoing nightmare that continued 4 years. With each short stint of sobriety he managed to piece together, the church replaced the crack pipe. He exchanged one addiction for the other. He continues to go from one extreme to the next even as I write this. He is currently addicted to Jesus. I am strangely happy about that. Whatever it takes to keep him clean. Myself, however, after years of trying to comply to that lifestyle, grew tired of giving myself to hope and ending up in a place of hopelessness.
Once, during a law enforced attempt to stay clean, he had an appointment downtown to meet with his probation officer. I was working at the dry cleaners, where I spent most of my time to compensate for his unemployed idleness and depression. Beyond the point of anxious, why not pray? It can’t hurt. I had a gut feeling he would take a detour. Stumbling into the Central or International Districts of Seattle never ended well for him. Meanwhile, at work, I hadn’t seen a customer in hours. I was alone and worried. I began to pray out loud, as fierce and desperate as I could. I gave it all I had. I pleaded with God to please keep him on the right path. A few hours later, he called from home. He informed me that everything had gone well and as planned. I really believed God heard my cries. Unlike the other times when I cried out to him while I was being raped in my own bedroom by this same man, struggling and begging him to get off of me. I swore he was the devil. When he was high, and especially coming down from a high, he may as well have been Satan himself. He looked evil. He terrorized me. I know there were demons in that room. I felt them. So when he called that day after his appointment, I felt relieved. Finally, everything was going to be better.
He showed up at 7:00 PM, closing time at the Dry Cleaners. His pupils were huge black saucers, covering every piece of Sinatra blue that I knew. He lied to me. Usually, I could hear the drugs in his voice immediately. I missed it by letting my guard down. By believing God had come through. Shocked, disappointed and scared of how the night would unfold, I refused to give him the money he came to ask for. He wasn’t out of money. He just wanted to taunt me. He actually thought I would be excited to come home and use with him. How fucking delusional can one become? The last place I wanted to be was up in that hell hole of an apartment watching porn and smoking crack. But I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Defeated and hopeless, I went with him. I wanted to run and flag down a car. I wanted desperately for that last customer to see the look in my eye, to see the cry for help in my face as my husband stood there waiting for me. Why couldn’t I say something? Why didn’t I? I guess I needed to maintain my invisible cloak of dignity. This cycle had become the collapse of our families. It became absolutely necessary to hide this torment we were living. It was that or raw fear that he had implanted in me years ago.
My life is better now. I no longer live in fear. The memories, however, are worsening. I believe this is a result of my writing. If that is the case, then I will write until I die. I need to purge all of this, so I can be free. Praying obviously isn’t going to have any effect, so I’ll share my journey with the world in hopes that someone who needs to hear it does. Some would say this is God’s will. That he allowed me to endure hell on earth. He doesn’t give you what you can’t handle, right? Fine. Call it what you will. After being so tremendously disappointed by a God (Abba father) who is supposed to protect you from harm, I just can’t believe anymore. He is supposed to be my father? After my real father left when I was barely a year old? After my husband, the man next in line to protect me, sold me, beat me, and almost killed me? I will never put my life in the hands of another “Father” again. My christian friends can and will pray for me all they like. That’s their choice. Just as choosing not to pray is mine.
I know the scars will get better, though they may never go away. I am thankful now for my afflictions. They made me stronger. I am thankful for those close to me who support me and love me regardless of how wrecked I feel, or am, not sure which. I do not doubt that I will have more nightmares and more using dreams. But I feel confident that I will be okay, because I sleep next to someone who makes me feel safe and walks me to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I know as I process and transfer these pictures into words, they are not written in vain. And I thank you for that.