Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Assumptions and Judging

A couple days ago I looked up a support group called Narcotics Anon. I heard the meetings are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but geared towards the loved ones of addicts instead of the addicts themselves. I searched for meetings in San Diego and found one that meets Tuesday nights not too far from my apartment.

After I finally made the choice to go, I started shaking. In that moment I felt the weakest I have in weeks. I started crying and breathing shallow and uncomfortable breaths. This strong reaction took me by complete surprise. Shouldn't I feel empowered now that I've made the choice to seek help and support? I didn't. I felt nauseous.

Before I left to get in my car, I grabbed the bear that Blake bought me. I decided I needed to take him with me; I couldn't leave my room and face this meeting unless the bear came too. I felt like I had reverted back to a little girl desperately needing her teddy. I didn't want to completely embarrass myself, so I compromised that I would leave the bear in my purse the whole time and only squeeze his hand from inside if I needed to.

As I walked up to the church, I sent a message to Blake asking him to help me find the strength to get through this. I kissed my twin freckle, checked to make sure the bear was snug and concealed in my purse, put one foot in front of the other, and went inside.

I don't really know what I was expecting to see, but I came upon a table set up with bright colored fliers and two elderly people wearing big name tags. I saw that they were volunteers for a kid's summer sports camp and realized I was in the wrong place. The woman enthusiastically asked me what I needed, but I didn't know what to say. I simply told her I was here for "a meeting" and asked if she knew where it was. Oh... "a meeting." I think she knew what I was referring to.

For the next 10 minutes I was passed off and guided around the church. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt like after each new person was whispered to about "the meeting" I was looking for, I was immediately looked up and down. My head started to fill with self-doubt. Did they think I was an addict? I wanted to blurt out to each person that the meeting wasn't for me, it was because my boyfriend just died! That would make these judgmental people feel bad! I started to panic from the weight of my insecurity, frustration with how I thought I was being judged, and the let down of realizing the meeting had been cancelled.

I shut off and went into auto-pilot while a lady tried to find the number of someone who could give me more information. As I sat in the chair in her office, I cried unapologetically while inside I allowed my anger to build. SO WHAT if I was actually there because I am an addict? Shouldn't these church people be proud of me? Shouldn't they be praising me for showing up, not making me feel judged for it? I decided that this must be part of the reason why it's so hard for addicts to come to terms with their addiction. Because people treat them like they are lesser because of it. If they can function normally with their drug use and it doesn't seem to have any obvious effects on their lives, why would they want anyone to know? Why would they agree to get help if the help is doled out condescendingly?

This rant in my head was interrupted when the lady apologized and told me there was no number listed. I was about to get up and go when she very sweetly told me how much these meetings helped her when her boyfriend died of an overdose and encouraged me to try to come back next week. I reached in my purse to grab the bear's hand. She went on. It was like she was explaining my exact situation back to me, only with the insight of being years past it, married to someone else, and raising three children.

Am I the judgmental one?

Did I assume just because these people worked at a church that they couldn't possibly be understanding of a person who uses drugs? Did my insecurity of being judged for this actually stem from the fact that I am judgmental of people who use drugs and didn't want to be mistaken for one? Is that why I awkwardly referred to it as "a meeting"?

So I didn't get to go to my first Narcotics Anon meeting last night, but I did have a valuable experience. I believe it's human nature to make assumptions and judge when you don't have all of the facts, and even when you do. We would be lying to ourselves if we boasted that we are free of biases, free of prejudices, free of jumping to hasty conclusions. The point isn't to never make assumptions or judgments, because that is nearly impossible. Instead, I am going to try to keep an open mind, to realize that the assumptions and judgements I've made about a person or thing might not be true. I think this will always be a constant battle against human nature, but one very worth fighting. You never know when someone will surprise you, so you have to make sure to give them the chance to.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's Haunting Me

May 1, 2013- 3:16 AM
"hey briana are you there i need to speak with you immediately"
"Call me as soon as you get this"

I woke up at 6 AM to get ready for work and saw these messages on my phone. Why was Blake's roommate contacting me in the middle of the night? My heart started racing. I knew it had to do with Blake, or else why would he be contacting me? We had met several times at that point, but were definitely not close enough to message each other about anything besides Blake. What was wrong?

I messaged back. No response. I called. No answer. I texted.

I waited.

This went on for hours throughout the day. I tried to leave voicemails. I took every opportunity to send a quick text during breaks at work. I even sought the guidance of one of my coworkers. What should I do? Should I just ask Blake what it was or wait a while to give his roommate the opportunity to tell me before alerting Blake that he went behind his back?

I had been texting Blake throughout the afternoon, but nothing abnormal about the night before had come up in our conversation. After I had fallen asleep the previous night, he sent me a few paragraphs worth of ranting about an argument he had just gotten into, how frustrated he was, and how he didn't know what to do. After waking up that morning, I calmly explained how I could see both sides, he was going to be ok, and that things actually were working out for the better.

Around lunch time he finally responded. He didn't mention anything about the fight he was in, or my reflection on it, but instead just said: "I love you so much baby doll. I want to be able to just come home to you. I would do anything." I thought this was sweet, but not out of the ordinary. He was always good at sending me messages like that. He went on: "Baby I want to hold you and just hold you. I never want to leave you."

What I didn't know at the time was that he almost did. In the middle of the night he had overdosed for the first time. His roommate's frantic messages to me at 3:16 AM were because Blake wasn't breathing and had to be taken to the emergency room.

It wasn't until 6:30 at night that I finally caved and just asked Blake what happened. It was clear his roommate had no intentions of responding to my calls, texts, and Facebook messages, so I might as well just ask Blake why I was contacted in the middle of the night.

When I asked why his roommate messaged me at 3 AM he cooly responded "Oh, it's because I had an allergic reaction." He went on to explain that they were watching movies downstairs and his roommate accidentally gave him something that had nuts in it (he is very allergic to nuts). He said the reason his roommate probably wasn't responding to me now was because he was so embarrassed that he made a big deal out of nothing.

A big deal out of nothing?

I try my hardest never to think about this, because I know it's one of those "what ifs" that only torture you and never lead to anything positive. But every once in a while, the events of that night and the day after take over my brain and haunt me.

What if I was awake to receive those messages at 3 AM?

What if his roommate responded to me and told me what happened?
What if Blake was honest about the overdose?

Would everything be different now?

Would Blake have realized the gravity of his drug use?
Would he have gotten help and gone back to rehab?
Would it have worked this time around?
Would he be alive and healthy?
Would I still be able to see him and touch him and hold him right now?

I can't wrap this post up with a positive message about how I believe I can eventually stop thinking about all of this. But maybe that's not the point? I think this will always haunt me. How could it not? I know there is nothing anyone (or I) can do or say to make this better. It will always be horrific and there's no way around it.

But can I be at peace with it? I think so. This peace started with me not blaming myself, his roommate, or Blake. I realized pretty quickly that there would be no point in that. Pointing fingers and casting blame only leads to anger, resentment, and more pain. My heart is already heavy enough with sadness, I can't add all of those feelings to my load as well.

What happened, happened, as awful and unfair as it all seems. I will never be able to change the events of that night or the way it unfolded the day after. What I can do now is learn a lesson from it. For the rest of my life, I will ALWAYS inform the family of a person who is putting his or her life in danger, by their drug use, lack of eating, risky behavior, or otherwise. If I ever feel like I'm not close enough to the person to make that call, I will tell someone who is. If I ever feel like I'm not knowledgeable or strong enough to handle what they are going through, I will tell someone who is. It is through our silence and our inactivity that these problems quietly grow worse.

And maybe after you've told someone else, things still keep progressing in the wrong direction. That happens. But at the end of the day, what matters is that you can look inside yourself and be at peace with the fact that you did everything you could.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Being Alone

The beach is literally a five minute walk from my new apartment, but until today I hadn't gone. This was because I was waiting for someone to go with, but all of my friends here have jobs to go to during the day. The thought of going by myself seemed weird, lonely, and sad. But since today was such a sunny and beautiful day, I decided to finally go even though I felt strange about it.

As I was walking up to the beach, an older couple was holding hands, carrying their fold-up chairs, and searching for the perfect spot. I ended up laying my towel a few feet from them.

They were both reading silently for a while, occasionally looking up from their books to smile at each other. At one point, the woman seemed to get bored of her book and started talking to the man. He attempted to keep reading while responding to her, but when this proved too difficult, he put his book in his lap so he could talk. After a few minutes, they both went back to reading. A few more minutes passed and I looked back over at the couple. I noticed that the man's book was back in his lap and he had reached over to grab the woman's hand. She held his hand as she struggled to turn the page with the other, until she decided she'd rather just hold his hand and put the book down. They leaned back in their chairs, held hands, and smiled at each other while enjoying the sun's warmth.

I got teary-eyed while watching them and thinking about how much I wish I could be there with Blake doing the same thing. But the weird thing was that even though the couple had what I wanted, I was not upset by them. Instead, I was so filled with happiness because of how obvious and true their love was, even after all of these years.

I've experienced similar things to this a lot since Blake's death. Usually after a break up, the sight of anyone in love makes me sick. I think it's a mix between jealousy and repulsion. But obviously what happened to Blake and my relationship wasn't a break up, so I think that's why I feel completely different. Now, I cherish love even more. When I see two people in love and happy, all I want to do is root for them and wish them the very best. Thanks to Blake, I know true love is the greatest feeling in the world. Everyone deserves to experience it.

This started me thinking about what I need now. If being in love is the best feeling, wouldn't feeling that way again help me feel better? Maybe losing my boyfriend left me with a hole in my heart that can only be filled by another boyfriend? Almost immediately as those thoughts crossed my mind, I dismissed them. No, that can't possibly be the right way to go about healing my broken heart. First of all, you can't successfully try to fall in love, and second, how unfair would it be to attempt to start a relationship with someone else when I am clearly still in love with Blake?

This whole discussion in my head made me reflect upon the fact that I initially stopped myself from going to the beach because I thought it would be pathetic to do it alone. Why did I think that? What's so bad about being alone?


I think I've subconsciously held the belief that to be truly happy, I need to be in a relationship. Somehow, having someone claim me as their girlfriend was validation of my self-worth. See? I am lovable, the fact that I have a boyfriend proves it. Someone out there thinks I'm good enough to be with me and only me. Being in a relationship made me feel like I was a person worthy of love.

But that's not what true love is about. Some of the loneliest people I know are in "serious" relationships. When I see couples like that, I am the opposite of envious. I feel bad for them because by continuing to be together, they are actually holding each other back from finding true love. No one should be in a relationship just because they are afraid to be alone. Because they're scared about what being alone might say about their worth. Because they are worried that if no one is in love with them, they aren't lovable.

By stopping myself from doing things, experiencing things, enjoying things because I am alone, I am reinforcing my flawed thinking that a person needs to be in a relationship to be truly happy. Like I've always believed, your soul mate isn't meant to "complete" you. A functional and lasting relationship isn't based on two people "needing" each other.  True love develops when two individuals, whole in their own right, share a similar vision for their future, see how they can grow together, and become best friends who happen to also be attracted to each other.

In order to get to a place where I can be that for someone else again, I need to be that for myself first. Now that I have been forever changed by this experience, what do I see in my future? What things do I need in my life to help me continue to grow? How can I be my own best friend now?

I see myself as an old woman, reading at the beach, smiling, and holding hands with my husband. I know that will be my life one day. For now, I am going to enjoy being alone. Even writing "enjoy being alone" feels forced and fake right now, but someday soon it won't.

Although I can't control when I find true love again, I can control how truly I love myself. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Suicide Attempt

Last night, the friend I described in this post and this post put up a picture on her Instagram account that was meant as a suicide note to her followers. It was a picture of a syringe full of heroin and a caption that said this:

She and I recently started using the messenger Kik to communicate, so when I saw the picture I immediately tried to see if she was online. I looked at the time stamp on her picture... 47 minutes ago. Was I too late? Please answer, please respond. 

I sent a frenzy of messages. I saw the "D" pop up next to the check mark, indicating that the message was delivered to her phone. Please turn into an "R"! If it turned into an R I would know she read it, she was alive, and that I had a way to talk to her.

After what seemed like hours of staring at the messages, willing them to change to "R"s, they finally did. I responded excitedly that I knew she was there, she was still alive, and that she read what I sent her. She told me that she was alive, for the moment, but to please not try to talk her out of her decision. That nothing I could say would change her mind. She had enough pills and heroin to make sure that she wouldn't make it and could die in a painless and blissful way. So I didn't try to talk her out of it. Instead, I just listened.

She went on to explain to me that after 15 years of using heroin, she didn't want it to come to this, but she had accepted that at this point the only thing keeping her alive was sick and disgusting. She needed heroin to live. Her life consisted of using every day or trying to stop using, getting so sick that her life was hell, and being reminded over again that heroin controlled her, that she couldn't escape her body's toxic and unyielding need for it.

She asked for my email address so she could send me the final goodbye letter she wrote for me (which was going to be the last entry of the blog I encouraged her to start writing). She never got a chance to finish it because she wasn't able to stay sober long enough to get her thoughts out correctly. 

Here it is:
"I've learned quite a bit in fifteen years of living older than my age. The most important, which I carry close at hand always? Never judge a person by their appearance, by first impressions, or by a singular piece of information about them without giving them a chance to let their true selves be known. 

Had I not learned that lesson, this blog would not exist. I never would've started writing again after years of silence. But because I didn't shy away from a person on Instagram who initially inspired nothing but the desire to backpedal and run and hide for fear of adding more pain to her already heavy load, I write now. I let it out. I don't duck into shadows or bottle this up anymore. I still keep it away from the light of my now defunct professional life, which I discussed in vague terms in my last post, but I don't hide away anymore. And I do it because someone of the most unlikely to speak to a junkie background did just that. 

Briana spoke to me. She asked questions, seeking understanding and self education about heroin addiction. She encouraged me. Other than the other addicts and recovering addicts on Instagram, she has been my only true follower. And also one of the people that through commenting back and forth, plus reading her blog, I feel I've grown closest to. She also gave me a gentle and needed push to start writing. She also writes a blog, found at Incredibly powerful and so raw and eloquently written, I don't think there's a person on earth who wouldn't grow at least a smidgen after reading X Amount of Time. 

But that singular, solitary piece of information about Briana that made me want to backpedal and hide again at first? Before I forced myself to stand and follow what I've learned about judging? That is the basis of her blog. Her boyfriend, Blake, overdosed and left this realm less than three months ago. Her blog is one of her healing tools. Same as this blog is my outlet for what I kept hidden so long. 

Briana chose to educate herself and perhaps answer some of her own questions one day and on Instagram, typed in the hash tag "heroin." It must've been the second or third day my Instagram was in existence because it wasn't private and was graphic. I don't sugarcoat. I don't lie. Don't minimize. I'm honest to a fault (what now lost me my professional capacity) and don't hide if I don't have to. I just simply cant stand to keep it all inside anymore, where it is eating me alive. So I let it all hang out on Instagram (now private for various reasons.) 

Briana, rather than do what I'd found many Instagram users like to do to junkies- poke fun, call names, try to beat a soul already injured- asked me questions. She wanted to learn. Wanted to know more about the drug that took her soulmate. I'd never in my life encountered someone like her before. Someone who was a "normie" having never been addicted who not only didn't judge me, but treated me like and absolute equal. Briana never once talked down to me. She respected me and where I was at in a long battle and didn't try to reason or rationalize me out of my disease. She"

I was at the Orange County Fair when I read this message and immediately fell into those silent tears I talked about. Why were they silent tears and not angry or confused tears? How could I keep this quiet to a point where the people I was with had no idea part of my heart just got ripped out of me?

I have no idea why, but I felt Blake's presence as I finished reading and went back to my conversation with Detroit Hyena. For whatever reason, as ridiculous as it seemed at the time, I knew in the back of my mind that she wasn't going to be successful at her suicide attempt. I knew she wasn't going to be able to die. She had unfinished business- with me, her family, her best friend Lepurd, and the rest of her followers who have grown to find a twisted sense of hope through learning about her life and struggle.

I told her she wasn't going to be able to die tonight, no matter how much heroin or pills she took. I told her she needed to finish my note, and write notes to her mom and sister. I don't know why I knew this, but I just knew it with all of my heart in a way that I've never felt before.

My messages to her stopped showing "R"s and returned back to those infuriating and confusing "D"s. Did she die? Did she get a chance to really hear what I was saying before she started nodding off? I was a mess, but there was nothing more I could do. 

This morning I woke up and sent her a hopeful "Good morning! Today is a new day."

Check mark "D"

10 minutes later...

Check mark "D"

10 minutes later...


"A new day, but not a good one though"

As I fumbled to reiterate to her all of the things I said the night before, she told me she couldn't talk because she needed to find somewhere where she could charge her phone.

She's alive. Today is a new day. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Cope with Someone Coping

Dear Friend,
I know I might make you feel awkward. I understand. I still don't feel comfortable being around myself and I live in this skin all day, every day. The very fact that you are even thinking about me, thinking about what I'm going through, is enough. The idea that you put aside your own day-to-day struggles to think about me, even just for a minute, is incredible. Know that I feel it even when I'm just crossing your mind. It gives me strength. It helps.

What do you say to someone going through something difficult? You say everything, you say nothing, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you reached out. Just hearing your voice, reading your message, or feeling your hug fills my heart back up a little bit. If you give me advice, I'll acknowledge it, I'll politely say thank you. Will I use it? Probably not. Should you be offended? Absolutely not. Did it still help anyway? Yes.

And if you want to do something? Please don't just do what's best for me, or what you think I need. How could you possibly know without asking? If you guess that I need to be distracted, I might be dying inside to talk to you about it, but not wanting to be the one to call attention to it and ruin the mood. If you try to talk incessantly about what happened, I might be wishing you would just stop and keep my mind off of it instead. But if you ask me which of those options would make me feel better, I probably won't have an answer for you. Don't be frustrated, because even just asking me that question is enough to let me know you care.

I feel like a burden, even if you reassure me a million times that I'm not. To me, you all seem happy and normal and I don't want to have any part in bringing you down. You deserve to be smiling and I don't want to take that away from you. Thank you for offering to be there for me though, that alone is all that matters. Even if I don't allow you to help me, you're helping me. Being reminded that I have a friend like you is all I can ask for in this difficult time.

Your Friend

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Video Tribute to Our Love

A beautiful video put together by Tiana Chavez to commemorate Blake and my relationship. 

I really needed this tonight. Thank you for being annoying and always insisting on taking videos of us. The love I see in our eyes and the pure happiness on our faces reminds me that my deep sadness is only a result of having experienced a love that was profoundly beautiful.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Promises of One Day (A Poem)

One day I will look my grief in the eye and get the help I need to address it
I will trust that a guy going to the bathroom is only using the toilet 
I will stop thinking people I love will die randomly without warning
I will no longer wake up slightly panicking that you aren't next to me
I will accept that life might not always seem fair, but no one ever said it would be
I will take comfort in the idea that I have to do this myself, but I don't have to do it alone 

One day I will stop obsessing over what could've been and focus on what is now
I will stop digging into your past and looking for answers
I will be at peace with what I know and what I will never know 
I will ignore my desire to learn things that only scare me further
I will center my thinking on what I can do now, not what I could've done then
I will understand that true love never dies, it just changes form- like you

One day I will allow myself to move on, knowing it's healthy and necessary
I will keep your memories close to my heart, but stop burrying myself in them 
I will put myself first and not feel guilty about it
I will allow happiness into my life and feel deserving of it 
I will accept that I'm not the same person I used to be
I will embrace this change and be stronger, wiser, and more beautiful because of it

One day I will actively follow through on the lessons you taught me
I will generously offer to help people with whatever they need
I will focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives
I will relax and give myself a break
I will laugh at life's frustrations and bask in the confusion 
I will make sure everyone I'm close to knows how special they are

I can get lost in the promises of "one day"
The future seems like a convienent space to toss these resolutions 
But at any point the passageway between my today and my one day 
Could have obstacles, narrow, or even close. 
So why not today? 
Why not start my one day now?

Today I won't accomplish all of these things, possibly not even one
I will forgive myself for that
I will respect my grief, but not let it consume me
I will focus on the baby steps I can take each day
I will celebrate small victories
I will take life a day at a time, because todays are what one days are made of.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Addiction: My Heart vs. My Head

Today I started to write a beautiful post about the memory of Blake and my first kiss. It really was special, the whole weekend leading up to it was special, but I can't share it right now. I want to focus on such a lovely memory, and all of the happy memories in general, but I can't ignore my pressing thoughts about how horrific the whole world of addiction is. I've opened up a can of worms in my search for information and I can never go back to being blissfully ignorant of it all.

Against the advice of basically everyone I know (and my own conscience) I am choosing tonight to dwell on addiction. Thoughts of it are constantly popping up in my brain, so instead of fighting them, I'm allowing them space to dance freely for a while on this page. After all, the reason why I created this blog was so I could release all of the things in my head, even the unpleasant ones. Hopefully I can entertain these thoughts for as long as it takes me to write this, and then lay them to rest for the time being.

Tonight I am oscillating between two opposing viewpoints. These conflicting ideologies can be dubbed my head and my heart.

My Heart:
Addiction is a disease, but one that can be overcome. Although it takes an incredible amount of internal strength, a person can make the choice to fight against the changes that have occurred in his/her brain. This will be an ongoing struggle, but addicts can be helped if they come to terms with what their addiction has done to their lives and the lives of those they love and make a conscious decision to end the destruction. They can go on and lead complete and fulfilling lives without drugs. 

My Head:
Some addicts cannot be helped. If a person has to decide on their own to WANT to stop using, but the addiction has made it nearly impossible for them to make that choice, how can they ever get better? How can you choose to fight against drugs when drugs have disabled your ability to choose? Is there a fine line that an addict crosses where there is no longer hope of sobriety? 

And what does that mean for the people who love these souls who have crossed that threshold? Must they resign to standing idly as the waiting game continues until they get that much dreaded, but fearfully anticipated phone call? Or is their only other choice to lose themselves in fighting a battle for a person who can only conquer his/her demon alone? Trying to play martyr by sacrificing their own health and well being for someone who cannot truly benefit from this act of selflessness? It seems like a lose-lose situation all around. 

If I go with my heart about Blake, it almost makes me more upset because I know that if his family and I had an intervention with him, he might have gotten the second chance he needed to really fight his addiction this time. He must have thought he could have both his drug use and me because he was able to hide it from me so well that he never had to choose. I know it's not helpful to think about this, but I feel like if I broke up with him or gave him an ultimatum he would've wanted to get clean for himself, knowing he needed to take control. 

But my head knows that love cannot save someone, only that person can save him or herself from addiction. Blake's love for his family was as strong, if not stronger than his love for me. If their intervention and concern didn't wake him up the first time, how can I believe that potentially losing my love would do it for him this time around?

I'm just feeling really down lately about the prospects of a full recovery for some addicts. Although my head and my heart know that many people can overcome this disease, only my heart believes in EVERYONE'S ability to do so.

Although it would never sit well with me to say its for the best that Blake died as early as he did, some part of my head does believe that if he was never going to get better, leaving the world when he did saved him and his loved ones a lot of pain. But that makes my heart hurt for all of the people coping with boyfriends, siblings, parents, friends ect. who seem to be on the same path as Blake, where hitting rock bottom and rehab still didn't produce the desired wake up call for internal motivation for a sober life. Would it be better for them and their loved ones if their "inevitable" death came sooner rather than later? My heart and my head both scream "Of course not!"

I'm going to go with my heart and say that everyone has the potential to overcome their addiction because it hurts too much to believe anything to the contrary. I don't like to think anything in life is predetermined. I believe in the power of free will and choosing your own destiny. I am going to choose to believe that a person can be on a path of inevitable death by addiction, but can, at any instant, stray from that path in a moment of strength and clarity. Even in the fog of addiction, I know in my heart there are moments of clarity. It's just up to the person to grab onto those moments with all of the strength they have left. And there is always strength left.

As for the loved ones of addicts, I see harm in both isolating yourself from them and playing their martyr. I think either scenario will add hurt and stress to your life. But whichever option you choose (or maybe a combination of the two), my head and my heart both agree that all you can do is pray for that moment of strength and clarity and make sure to be there if/when it comes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Types of Crying

Sometimes I randomly start crying out of nowhere. It's not like the crying I do when something reminds me of Blake or I'm specifically thinking about him. This type of crying is almost like my body has decided it's too full of sadness and starts leaking out tears. It begins slowly, without consciousness or warning, and increases through my confusion. Why am I crying now? What's wrong with me?

This is a quiet process. Quiet enough that no one would notice if they weren't looking at me. So I take it as a moment to retreat into my mind for a little while. I don't try to stop the tears; I let them roll down my cheeks and create small puddles on my shirt. I am patient with myself and ride this wave of tear drops until my body decides it has released enough. 

And then it's over, just as quickly and silently as it began. 

I have discovered there are several different types of crying, each one important in its own way. Although I'm sure there are more, these are the kinds I've been experiencing the most in my grief:

There is the gut wrenching crying that comes from the pit of your stomach and makes you heave as it suffocates you with it's force. This crying let's the anger and frustration out. When you've finished with this type of crying, you are so exhausted from the energy it takes that you don't have the capacity to be mad anymore. 

Then there is confused crying. Your brain is bouncing from one thought to the next, you're wondering why, feeling helpless and hopeless. There are no real answers to any of the things you're wondering, so all you can do is cry. In some weird way this crying makes you feel better because at least now you're able to say out loud how lost you feel. And that's ok. This is the best kind of crying to do with someone else because you can bond in mutual confusion and support each other in agreement about how unfair life can seem sometimes. 

But then there's happy crying. Your heart becomes so full of gratitude that a smile can't fully convey your intense emotions. Tears tumble from your eyes as visual representations of the love that fills your heart so completely that it can't contain it anymore. These happy tears wash you clean, give you strength, let you know you're going to be alright. 

And the silent tears I talked about first? I think they serve the purpose of reminding me it's ok to feel. Even when I'm distracted by my day, moving forward with my life, they come out of no where to remind me that I'm allowed to pause. If I tried to stifle them, they'd probably turn into confused crying or even angry crying. So instead, I use them as a reminder that I'm still healing. Instead of being upset with myself for that, I respect it. I give these tears the space they need and let my body decide when it's finished. And just as suddenly as they began, they stop. 

I am thankful to my body for the ability to feel, my heart for the capacity to emote, and my mind for the understanding that all types of crying are important and necessary. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Addiction Isn't Always a Choice

After connecting with the new friend I made on Instagram that I described in my last post,  I suggested that she start a blog. Seeing her pictures, reading her beautiful captions, and commenting back and fourth showed me that she had an important story to tell and possessed an incredible tallent in writing. I explained what a release it's been for me to have this space to put all of my thoughts, and encouraged her to create one so she could do the same.

And she did.

In her post that I just finished reading entitled "Weight on my Shoulders and Memories Everlasting,"she describes the pain she's endured in her life and why she continued to use heroin to escape a reality she considered worse than that of her addiction. 

Reading her post, it was hard to blame her for looking to drugs as a way to escape emotional pain she didn't know how to process as a child. Although there are definitely better ways to cope, when you're young, feel like there's no one to turn to, and no way out of a life you can't deal with alone, drugs seem like a valid option. 

But that begged the question, what about Blake? What could he possibly need to escape from? All throughout his life he had an incredibly loving family and more friends than anyone I know. What immense pain was he hiding that he couldn't deal with and needed drugs to numb? Why did he need to run away from us? I just couldn't figure it out. 

Here is the conversation we had on her Instagram post immediately after:

Tonight my new friend helped me realize that not all addictions start as a conscious attempt to escape a rough life. Sure, that's probably why many addicts start experimenting with drugs, but not all of them. For some, like Blake, being prescribed pain killers in the first place without proper monitoring is enough to set it all into motion. It's a deadly combination of access, acceptability by peers, genetics, and the artificial enjoyment that makes the risk seem worth the reward. Before they know it, they are in over their head wondering how (or denying that) these behaviors ended up in an addiction.

As my friend put it, Blake didn't start using as a way to escape his life, but rather, he ended up using as a desperate attempt to stay present in a life the drugs were viciously trying to take him from. 

Blake had an incredible life filled with so many accomplishments, lasting friendships, and love. It would be a dishonor to him if his family, close friends, or I looked at ourselves as having any blame in his addiction. He wasn't trying to escape us. If anything, he was battling everyday to remain part of the amazing world he belonged in. A world so beautiful and filled with the most amazing people a person could ask to be surrounded by. 

I'm resting a little easier tonight knowing this. Addiction was not his choice, it was his disease. Just as you wouldn't blame a person for losing their fight with cancer, I am comforted in the fact that Blake fought bravely every day to overcome a truly terrible affliction. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Social Media: #Heroin

I'd prefer to think of myself as constantly on a quest to learn more. That's how I've always been, ever since I can remember. I would find something that interested me and pour myself into learning as much about it as I possibly could. I think that's why I'm so excited to be a student again now that I'm starting graduate school this fall. The way I see it, there is always something I don't know and I have an insatiable hunger to find out.

A week or so ago I looked up the hashtag "heroin" on Instagram. I know, I know, what a morbid thing to do. I couldn't help doing it, honestly. I've never seen heroin before, not even a picture. Actually, I've never seen the vast majority of drugs before. I have absolutely no interest in ever trying any of them, but now more than ever I'm captivated by their power over people.


All I had to do was type that into the search feature and hundreds of photos populated my screen. I felt like I had just been given unlimited access into a secret world. From the safety of my bedroom I got an intimate look into lives of people who openly share their drug use. It was all there- everything I read about, but had never been exposed to.

As the days went on, there was this one profile I kept coming back to. She seemed to almost take pride in her drug use and the scars it had left on her body and in her life. She was so open, honest, and unashamed. As much as it scared me to see her pictures, I could sense a goodness in her. While looking through her profile I felt a strange connection to her that I can't really explain.

The day she put up a picture of Soboxone (a drug used to help people with opiate addiction) I felt compelled to comment on her photo and explain why I have been casually stalking her photos.
I also wrote:
"I've been following your story for a couple days now and I just wanted to thank you for being so open and honest. You've helped me understand the daily struggle of wanting to quit, but being pulled back in. Just know someone in California who has never touched heroin doesn't judge you and is sending you strength and positive thoughts"

She responded beautifully about her battle with heroin, her vision for her life, and how insidious and truly sneaky addiction is. One of my favorite things she wrote in her reply was:
"I personally believe all addicts go to heaven if there is one because we have already been through hell on earth."

I catch myself daily making assumptions about people, just as I used to about people who use heroin. I know now that these assumptions are usually very far off base. All it takes is putting a face to these judgements and suddenly you realize how cruel it is to assume. This small connection I've made with a woman from Detroit has really served as a reminder to me to check myself and be more open minded. You never know when you're keeping yourself from a learning opportunity a person could provide you with.

I am going to end this post with a piece of something truly heart wrenching that my new friend wrote on one of her Instagram pictures. I feel like this helps paint a picture of what life is like for an addict:
"And as the edges blur and the sun becomes reluctant to rise, I grow tired of waiting for the storm to pass and make another attempt to dance in the rain, water rolling off my shoulders, washing away a decade's worth of dried blood and city dust. And though I dance alone these days, my neck is gaining strength, almost powerful enough to lift my head to salute the world as it passes me by, our parades marching opposite directions on the same crowded street. And in these moments, if you tell me the end is near I'll just laugh and live on forever, with flames always lapping at my heels, rain pounding my back, and elusive hope slipping in and out of my grasp."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Share in my Happiness (A Letter)

I did it! I’m all moved into my new apartment in San Diego. When you look down my street you can see the ocean! It’s everything we dreamt about and more. There is a new sense of calm in my life that makes me feel like I am exactly where I need to be.

Every step of the move, I envisioned you with me. Talking for hours with my mom and me as we drove down, helping my dad carry up and rebuild all of my furniture (while my mom and I tried to be useful), and laying with me in bed after it was all done, discussing excitedly about this new adventure for us.

For us.

It’s jarring each time I have to realize that it’s just me, not us. You would think I’d understand that already, but it’s still a shot to the heart every single time. As much as I try to cling on to the idea that we’re doing this together, I know it’s just me now.

I wish I felt ok about that, but I don’t. Not at all. It’s not like I believe you’re going to miraculously come back, but wouldn’t that be nice? We could live in this perfect city and start fresh together. I realize that will never happen, but I can’t stop thinking about it regardless of the facts.

Tonight, I am asking you to be with me. Find a way to somehow help me feel your presence in all of these happy moments so I can share them with you. We both wanted this so badly. And because of that, I feel strangely selfish having this experience on my own. I know you think I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do. So please, find a way to share this happiness with me.

I love you to Planet Z (and back),


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Who Am I Now?

A girl who also recently lost her boyfriend and I have been messaging back and forth since Blake died. Although she is very much still going through a lot of the same emotions as me, she is a couple months further down the road. Talking with her has given me insight into typical challenges during the grieving process that I will encounter, before I encounter them.

A few days ago I wrote her this:
"The hardest thing for me right now is realizing that I'm never going to be myself again. I think I'll become more like myself as time goes on, but I'll never be exactly the same as I was before. Everyone says that's a good thing and I'll come out of this a different, but stronger person, but it just sucks. When I do things I used to do with people I used to do them with I want so badly to just be myself and I can't."

After affirming that that was normal and she was experiencing it too, she shared this:

"I started an internship a month ago and am meeting a bunch of new people and they think of me as a single girl with short hair, when I see myself as a girlfriend with long hair and a nose piercing haha. I am scared to add any one on Facebook because I just know they won't be able to comprehend how much I have been through in the last three months and how much I have changed, to them I am just another college student. Have you started experiencing that at all yet?"

At that point I hadn't, but today I move to San Diego and I know that time has come for me. 

Who am I Now?

Am I Blake's girlfriend? 
Am I single?'

Should I let new people friend me on Facebook?
Will it scare them to find out what I am going through?

Can I get close with anyone who doesn't know this important part of me?
Is it necessary for everyone to know?

I honestly don't have answers to these questions and even three months out, neither does she. Although this kind of seems contradictory, I want to be able to answer "yes" to all six of those questions.

Blake will always be my boyfriend, but that doesn't mean I can't eventually be completely happy and in love with someone else. I know that sounds ridiculous and maybe to some people it is. However, widows get remarried all the time, does that mean they love their first husband any less? Absolutely not. Does that mean they'll never be able to fully give themselves to their new husband? I don't think so either. At age 24 it would be silly to think I will never love again, and Blake wouldn't want that for me either. 

I can't be afraid to let new people into my life because of my reality right now. Yes, it will probably scare them. It might even scare a few people away from wanting to be my friend altogether (why would I want to be friends with those people anyway?). But after they get over the initial shock, I think they'll come to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone has a battle they are fighting that makes them who they are, but doesn't define them. 

Which brings me to the last two questions. Yes, I can get close with someone who doesn't know about my boyfriend's death, but eventually I'll need to tell them if I want more than just a surface level friendship. Going through a loss like this is going to change me. It's going to make me into someone a little different and hopefully a little stronger, wiser, and more beautiful too. Because of that, how could I hide this life altering experience from a person I love? That being said, it won't define me. 

So who am I now?

I'm still figuring that out. But I know once I do, I'll be everything I used to be and so much more.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Prescription Drugs

Take a pill, it'll make you feel better.

Yes, but for how long? 

When will I be able to stop taking these pills to make me feel better once I get used to them as my coping mechanism? 

Will I ever be able to be ok without them?

I know this is controversial, but it's how I've always felt. I'm not up on a soapbox here, I just need to vent a little bit.

I believe in the power of therapy. I believe in the power of getting at the very root of a problem and then starting to cope and heal from there. I've never been ok with a band-aid solution. I figure if I just work on the surface level of an issue, the pain will never truly go away. When you keep pushing aside what's really causing the emotional turmoil, how do you ever expect for it lessen?

Don't get me wrong, I realize how amazing medication can be. There are people who truly need it and it does wonders for them once they find the right pill. I don't judge anyone for that. I think it's great that doctors have been able to use science and technology to correct imbalances in brain chemistry.

But is every problem an imbalance in brain chemistry?

If at any point in my grief I feel like something just isn't normal about my thinking or the way I process things, I will gladly agree to get professional help. But after a tragedy like losing someone you love, who wouldn't feel overwhelmingly sad? Who wouldn't want to stay in bed all day? Who wouldn't find it hard to eat or sleep? I need to remember that it has been less than two months so all of this is NORMAL. This is a natural reaction to dealing with something so unfathomably horrific.

Will taking pills make me feel happy? Help me get out of bed? Possibly. Is that what I need? That cannot possibly be determined yet.

Why is it that everyone's first reaction to being upset is to take a pill? Isn't that what got Blake into his addiction in the first place?

I personally believe that medication should always be your very last resort in dealing with emotional problems, not the first. If you try all available coping mechanisms and something still just isn't right, I think there's so much strength in realizing you might need medication to help you through it. There is absolutely no shame in that.

As of right now, writing down my thoughts and connecting with people who are going through/went through similar things as I am has been so incredibly therapeutic. I know I am getting better. Every day I am able to see things more clearly, let go of anger, and focus more and more on the positives. Although at times I feel like I'm on the cusp of depression, who wouldn't be? I think it wouldn't be normal if I wasn't. The important thing is I'm recognizing the warning signs and being honest with others and myself. I am trying to be accountable for helping myself, whether that involves writing more, surrounding myself with friends and family, joining a support group, seeing a profesional, or (as a last resort) taking medication. 

After all, think of the irony in dealing with the loss of someone who died from an addiction to prescription pills by taking prescription pills. If that is what it takes, so be it, but I am going to fight as hard as I can to use every coping mechanism and resource possible to avoid that.