Posted in C-Haze

DNA, Ancestry and Native Americans

I recently did one of those Ancestry DNA kits. It took me a really long time to get up the nerve to do it. I am very comfortable in my skin as a bi-racial woman, but it was a rough road getting here. Adopted as a kid, I was told at varying times that yes, I was mixed, but no one was 100% what I was mixed with. My biological mother named a black man as my father on my birth certificate, but it was anybody’s guess whether or not he was actually the father.

My (very limited) non-identifiable adoption records stated that my biological mother is white; biological father mixed with black and Native American.

Every time I looked in the mirror, I could see the Native American shine through, but not much else. I always had this secret fear that the man named as my father isn’t really him, and that as a result, I probably didn’t truly know what race I am. I worried that if I ever did get a DNA test done, it would come back showing me as something I had never identified as- like Middle Eastern- and that all the work I’d done as a child and as an adult to embrace my blackness would be for nothing.

Well, I finally did it.

The biggest surprise is that I am not Native American. At all. 0.00% Native American. I am more than 70% white – meaning my mother is white, and my father has at least some white in him as well. I’m 20-something percent African, which is awesome. This means all the work I did to get comfortable, to love and embrace the black woman in me wasn’t for nothing.

I was a little disappointed to see that I don’t have anywhere near the amount of African ancestry as I’d always believed, but was relieved that nothing I’d never even considered part of my heritage – like Middle Eastern or Italian – wasn’t predominant.

My ancestors – both white and black – showed up in Eastern North Carolina back in the 1700s. My people have been here for hundreds of years, which explains my unbelievable attachment – it’s in my soul – to this area of the country. All of the years I didn’t live here, I knew I would eventually come back.

Last year I did just that.

Feels even more appropriate than it did before, somehow.

Posted in C-Haze

Be-Lo Murders

In honor of my recent return to my home state of North Carolina, I thought I’d highlight one of my pet cases from right here in the Tar Heel State.

Windsor, NC is a small town in northeastern NC, in what’s known as the Inner Banks part of the state. The population (as of 2018) is roughly 3,630 people. The town’s pretty diverse, compared to other small towns in the area- approximately 45% white, 53% black.

On June 6, 1993, two employees of the Be-Lo Grocery store locked up for the night. It was Sunday, and the store closed at 6 PM. Shortly thereafter, four members of a third-party cleaning crew that had been hired by the store owners arrived to begin their shift. By the end of the evening, three people would be dead, two would be seriously injured, and one would escape physically unharmed.

A man had come into the store earlier, prior to its closing, hiding inside until after the place had been locked up for the night. He robbed the store of more than $3,000 in cash and money orders, and forced manager Grover Cecil, along with cashier Joyce Reason to the rear of the store. He then made Cecil get four cleaning crew members to join them in the rear aisle.

The manager was then forced to bind the other five, using duct tape and dog leashes. When finished, the perpetrator bound Cecil in a similar fashion. He then stacked the six victims on top of each other in three stacks; two people in each stack, and began shooting with a .45 caliber hand gun. He fired three shots – one through each stack – killing three people before his gun jammed. The deceased were Grover Cecil, Joyce Reason, and a cleaning crew member named Johnnie Rankins. A second cleaning crew member was also hit by one of the three bullets, but survived. His name was Sylvester Welch.

With his gun jammed, the killer walked away from his captives, returning shortly with a knife, which he found in one of the rear storerooms. He then stabbed another cleaning crew member- Jasper Hardy- multiple times in the throat and back with such force the knife broke. The sixth victim, the final member of the cleaning crew, was left unharmed. His name, Thomas Hardy. Hardy had been placed on the bottom of one of the stacks the killer had shot through, so the bullets had missed him altogether. He pled with the murderer to spare him, claiming he wouldn’t be able to identify him anyway. The killer, it seems, believed him.

The man then gathered the money he’d stolen, the knife he’d found inside the store, and the store keys and left.

He has never been found.

Sylvester Welch, though gravely injured, crawled to the front of the store and called for help, leaving a trail of blood. The carnage was the worst first responders had ever seen. In interviewing the survivors, key information was learned. The suspect was described as a black male – initially thought to be in his 20s, this was later revised to an older man, possibly in his 30s. The man was tall, 6’0″-6’2″, with short hair, light brown eyes, and weighing approximately 170-200 lbs.

The man claimed to have been an ex-police officer, fired from his job over a drug deal gone wrong. Witnesses say they saw a small white car with Maryland plates driving north on US 17 immediately following the crime.

Authorities are skeptical that the man is ex-law enforcement, as this tip led nowhere. He may have just made up a story to tell to evade capture. Some have speculated that he may have been a current or past member of the military, as there are several bases relatively close by.

Was this his first time?

About a year after the brutal Be-Lo murders in Windsor, NC, another Be-Lo store was robbed in nearby Hertford, NC. The similarities are eerie.

According to assistant store manager Dwayne Gilliam (who had once worked at the Windsor store in the ’80s), a gunman hid in the Hertford store until closing. He bound Gilliam and a co-worker with duct tape and a dog leash, escaping with an unknown amount of money. Thankfully no one was killed.


Hiding in the store until it’s closed? Binding victims with duct tape and a dog leash? Stealing cash? If unrelated, it seems this was a copy-cat crime, at best.

If you have any information about this case, contact the Windsor Police Department at (252) 794-3111, or the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation at (800) 334-3000.

There is a 30,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the Be-Lo killer.

Posted in C-Haze


I’ve learned over the years that we never really “get it” when it comes to life. At least I don’t. I keep thinking if I just “get” this next lesson, I’ll have “it” all figured out. Then something is thrown my way, some sort of life-type thing, and I realize… nope. I still don’t get it.

The best I can do is move forward. One foot in front of the other, keep doing the next right thing. That has served me well in recent years, so I plan to continue doing just that.

I moved back to my hometown, halfway across the country from where I spent the last 20+ years in 2020. I have never looked back. Until I left that place, I didn’t realize the turmoil, pain and trauma of my years there. I mean, I knew some stuff wasn’t great, and other stuff was downright awful… but I had gotten so used to functioning in that space at some level of numb that I truly didn’t realize how bad it had been until I left.

As if I’d gotten so accustomed to holding my breath, holding pain inside, that I somehow forgot that it was there to begin with.

Coming back to my people, my environment, my home was wonderful. It is wonderful. I love it here so much. I love the mountains just to west, and I love the ocean just to the east; that I can get to either in just a couple of hours is even better. I love popping up at my parents’ house, or hanging out with my brothers, their wives, their kids. The nieces and nephews I never got to know very well until now.

I’m no longer isolated.

Also, though… it’s brought new realizations. Until I found happiness, I didn’t realize just how unhappy I’d been for so many years. Until I learned what it means to be loved the right way, supported and mentally healthy, I didn’t understand just how wrong I’d done things before.

The realization, as it continues washing over me, is painful. For all the trauma and personal neglect I’ve worked through over the years, there is still more inside of me. More that needs exorcised and purged.

The best part? I can do it, and I no longer have to do it alone. All the independence I’d sought over the years, and I now know I wasn’t seeking the right thing! A wise person once told me, “The goal is not independence, it’s interdependence”. I feel that on a cellular level.

Posted in C-Haze

WW, Comfort, and Releasing the Armor

I’m making progress, and wanted to maybe start sharing some of that here, in an effort to keep me accountable, and as kind of a weight loss diary.

So far I’m down a total of 5 lbs, 2.2 of which I lost this past week.

I’m having to learn how to overcome some pretty big challenges in order to lose weight. Initially, it was alcohol. As an alcoholic, I needed to get into recovery, because I was consuming more than a full day’s worth of calories just in liquor alone. That took some time, as I had to learn how to LIVE without alcohol in my life, and wisely chose not to focus on my weight while also trying to focus on abstaining from alcohol.

Now that I’m no longer struggling day-to-day with alcoholism, and have learned how to live a sober life, I’m now having to learn how to make positive, healthy food choices. In some ways, this has been more difficult than cutting the alcohol out of my life was.

Food has been a source of comfort to me since I was a little girl. I had a fast enough metabolism so that I didn’t have any weight concerns until well into adulthood, but looking back over my life, I never had the best relationship with food.

Food was my security blanket, and later, as an adult, the fat and extra pounds it put on me was my armor, protecting me from the rest of the world.

I’m definitely working on all that, and am working to come up with solutions to make it easier for me to make healthy day-to-day choices. I used to wait until very late in the day to eat anything, so that I was absolutely famished – and prone to making horrible food choices. I’d opt for anything comforting (fast food, overly processed food, anything high in bad fats/carbs). Due to my famished state, I’d over-consume, and then wallow in self-pity because my willpower is so puny.

Currently, I’m trying to eat something each morning. Fruit, some lean turkey breast, a cheese stick – something.

Next, I’m allowing my husband, who supports me in whatever I do, no matter what size I happen to be, to actually help me achieve my goals. He loves to cook, for example, while I hate it. I might get a wild hair decide to cook a meal every now and again, but certainly not with any regularity, and definitely not after a long day of work, when I’m already tired and hungry. My husband has graciously accepted the responsibility of cooking for us each day. We choose healthy meals from the Weight Watchers app that I can easily track, and that’s what he makes for me.

I’m not cooking, but I’m still eating healthy.

Clearly, based off my 5 lb loss, it’s working. I still have a ways to go yet, but I like the trend.

Posted in C-Haze

2020, COVID, and Mid-Life Crisis

2020 has been a helluva year for all of us. We’ve all endured uncertainty, fear, frustrations, etc.

It has been a life-changing year for me. Displaced by COVID, I found myself unexpectedly moving from the town I’d lived in since 1998 back to my hometown – halfway across the country – Charlotte, NC.

My husband is a first responder. As a firefighter/paramedic, he had to treat and transport COVID patients every day in our old town. As a high risk individual, we decided it would be best for me to take my (now) 15 year old daughter and go east, where my family is, and hunker down with them until all this passed. My husband couldn’t guarantee our safety at home, given the job he was required to perform.

I packed my daughter up and went to Charlotte for what I assumed would be a couple of weeks. It was a 12 hour drive. I had 7 days worth of clothes in my suitcase, with the understanding that I could do some laundry at my parents house if it came to that.

Ha. If it came to that.

What started as a trip to stay with family for a short time ended up being a long-term stay, followed by the decision to just move here once we realized COVID isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

My husband, we decided, could find a different job in NC in IT (his first love). If worst came to worst, he could get a job as a first responder locally. I could still hunker down with family as needed. Quarantining with family who lives locally is not as big a deal as quarantining with family who lives halfway across the country.

I gave my 15 year old the option of whether to move with me to NC or go back to her hometown back west. Initially, she chose to come with me, but ultimately changed her mind. She was homesick, so she went back to west, and moved in with her dad.

As a result, I’m an empty nester.

I’m close to my family for the first time in my adult life, and I’m 42 years old. I have a beautiful home here, and my husband loves it as well.

Maybe it’s all the changes we’ve been through, or the countless hours in quarantine doing nothing but stewing…

… But lately, I can’t help but ask myself, “What else is out there for me?”

My job, which I’ve always loved, feels stale. I’m bored in general, and need something – anything – added to my life.

A new hobby? A new career? A new college degree?

What am I seeking? What is it I desire?

I’ve spent my entire life doing “whatever I have to do” to make ends meet, take care of my children… that now, I’m left wondering, “What’s next?”

For now, my youngest daughter is living 700 miles away with her father. My oldest daughter is completely on her own, living elsewhere. I can be something other than a mom for the first time since I got pregnant at 19, and I’m lost.

I’m more than merely someone’s mother or wife. There is more to life than going to work every day. Now that I don’t have to stress about finances or raising kids, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Perhaps this is what mid-life crisis feels like. Maybe I’m just in transition, standing at the crossroads. It’s not an altogether comfortable feeling to have. Let’s see where this takes me.

Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

Old Friends, Beauty and Second Chances

Several months ago I briefly sponsored a sweet kid in her early 20s. She wanted sobriety badly, but wasn’t quite ready to work the program. She had a lot of issues, as many of us do, and wrestled with problems that included gender identity, and how to fit that into her very real love of God. Yes, she loved God, but never really believed God loved her in return, thinking her sexuality a deal breaker in the eyes of her higher power.

I remember how badly I wanted her to love herself, accept herself, and truly believed if she could learn to live an authentic life, one that was true to the identity that felt most real to her, it would go a long way towards dealing with that some of that which made her drink and use.

I also knew she struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder, and thankfully understood I was out of my wheelhouse when it came to addressing those issues. I would wisely advise her to follow her doctors’ advice.

No matter how hard I pushed (I know better than to push so hard these days), I couldn’t get her past step 2. I offered to take her to LGBTQ meetings, we met in coffee shops to read and discuss the 12 steps together.

I got the distinct impression that like many of us, she simply didn’t feel she deserved sobriety, and the freedom, serenity and the 2nd chance at life that comes with recovery. I couldn’t force her to see her worth, and as a result, I watched her slowly drift away, becoming less and less engaged.

Eventually, the phone calls stopped, and she vanished. Her phone stopped going to voicemail, and I could no longer send her text messages or call her. Her social media pages were deactivated. She stopped coming to meetings, and no one had any idea where she was, or what happened to her.

Given her depression, and history of relapse, I was afraid she was dead. I worried to the point of panic, but there was nothing I could do. I had no one I could call to inquire after her- the nature of our program is that of anonymity, so once she cut ties, all that could be done was say a prayer and hope for the best.

Months passed, and I still thought of her, but life moved on, and the panic slowly subsided. I’d wonder whatever happened to that sweet young girl I’d cared so much about, but over time it became a passing thought, and not much beyond that.

Today, as I was walking across the parking lot towards the building to attend my weekly Saturday meeting, I saw her.

I stopped dead in my tracks, almost afraid to believe my eyes.

Yes, it was definitely her. She’d changed, for sure. Gone was the innocence, the sweet “girly” essence she’d tried so hard to portray to the world, that only a few of us knew was a lie. The pink nail polish and childish stud earrings had been replaced. She now sports short, gender-neutral hair, a tattoo on her wrist, and gender-neutral clothes. She was smoking a cigarette, and her eyes were…

… hard.

I almost dropped the things I held in my hand, so happy to see her.

I grabbed her and hugged her tightly. “You’re back,” I whispered in her ear, tearfully.

We spoke at length, and I was completely stricken by what she shared.

Her story is heartbreaking. I won’t tell it, because it isn’t mine to tell. Suffice it to say she’s been to hell and back these last months. A few times, really. She’s knocked on death’s door, and more than once, she was pissed it didn’t take her.

She looks so different because she IS different.

I’m glad she looks the way she does. She finally looks real. Authentic. She certainly no longer looks like a kid who’s trying be something she isn’t. She isn’t trying to make anyone else happy by projecting an image that she’s anything other than what she actually is.

That’s my definition of beauty. She’s beautiful.

She made my day, and she reminded me, through her story and perseverance why we dance this dance, each and every day:

For people like us, if we don’t, there are only two possible outcomes- death or jail.

Today, I am so grateful for my friend. I am grateful she found her way back, and I’m grateful I got to witness it. I’m thankful for my program, and I’m thankful that program was here for her, and that it was here for me too, when we both needed it the most.

We all have another relapse in us, but not all of us have another recovery in us. Mostly, I’m thankful she has got another chance.

Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery, Sobriety

Step 1, Powerlessness and Manageability

Last week we talked about step 12, so this week it only makes sense to start over, and begin with step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I relapsed because I simply could not get step 1 right initially.

First, I couldn’t admit I was powerless over alcohol. I tried to control my drinking on my own in every possible way. I tried total abstinence, I tried only drinking on weekends, I tried eliminating liquor and switching to wine, I tried drinking measured amounts (literally breaking out measuring cups), everything. I went to outpatient rehab in 2007, and was drunk within 24 hours of graduating from the program. I went to countless meetings over the years, I got sponsors, I got fired by sponsors (which isn’t even supposed to be a thing, but I was so hellbent on doing everything my own way, I was impossible to work with). I joined 12 step programs, I joined non-12 step programs, I went to therapy, I switched therapists, I quit therapy. I even went to church for a while, which, if you know me, you know how radical this was. For me, anyway.

I’d get up every morning, swearing I would not drink that day… only to be drunk by 6 PM, wondering what the hell happened.

Nothing worked.

Second, I couldn’t admit my life had become unmanageable, and when I finally could admit it was unmanageable, I refused to acknowledge alcohol had anything to do with it. I had been divorced twice, was almost in financial ruin (even as I had a great job, with excellent benefits, and a way higher-than-average salary), had just been put on probation at work, barely knew my kids anymore, and I had terrible health issues. My liver enzymes were elevated to dangerous levels, and in my late 30s I was getting weird ailments like shingles, unexplained high fevers that left me hospitalized for days on end, and mysterious infections that almost left me septic.

Worse, my soul was in ruins. I was dishonest. I was a hermit. I avoided life, love, companionship or anything else fun. I had no joy.

No one in my life was using the word “alcohol” to describe the reasons these things were happening (mostly because I was lying to them about its existence), so I was fine to stay in denial too, and pretend my drinking had nothing to do with any of it.

I just figured, you know, God or the Universe or whatever hated me. None of it had anything to do with me, my bad decisions, my bad behavior, and definitely nothing to do with the 5th of vodka I was drinking every single day.

Finally, I hit my rock bottom. A series of events occurred, and I knew I was finished. I was going to get honest, get help, or die. It was as simple as that. I stopped drinking, and I crawled to a meeting.

By that point, surveying the absolute colossal mess my life was in the moment, I had no problem admitting it was unmanageable. What I still had trouble admitting was that I was powerless over alcohol. I reasoned that only I could stop the drinking- who else was going to do it for me, after all?

What I learned is that in order to stop drinking, I have to admit complete and total defeat. If I’m a boxer and alcohol is my opponent in the ring, I’m going to get my ass kicked – TOTAL KNOCK-OUT – Every. Single. Time.

I am powerless over alcohol, and I will always be powerless over alcohol.

My life has become unmanageable.

It is because of my need to control everything – my drinking, my life, other people, other places, other things, that I was in this mess.

Finally, it was time to let go.

I am powerless, and knowing that has become the most freeing thing in the world.

Step 1 is what got me stopped drinking. Later, working step 4, doing an inventory of all the messes I’d made of my life over the years while I insisted on being in control of everything, is what helps to keep me stopped. It helps me understand that my life was always unmanageable, at least for as long as I insisted on trying to be in control, as long as I insisted on being in the driver’s seat.

It will always be that way. I now know that I need to stay out of my own way, and stay out of the driver’s seat. I let my Higher Power drive, while I’m happy controlling the dials on my side of the car, in the passenger seat. I can control my own actions, and nothing else, ever – and even then, I am only in control of myself as long as alcohol is not part of the equation.

Step 1 is the beginning of a new life- but we have to do the work every single day. It’s the only step we have to get 100% right, 100% of the time.

Our lives depend on it.

Posted in Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

12 Steps, Broadway and Opera Singers

My home group is a step group, which means we focus exclusively on the 12 steps. Every week we read a step, and then we share what that particular step means to us. I love it, because I believe working the steps is what keeps me sober, so reading through them each week, and then hearing others’ interpretations is invaluable for me.

As most will tell you, 12-step work is not a one-and-done kind of thing. A lot of us find that we have to work the steps to some degree over and over again, every single day. Some steps are harder than others, some we do better than others, but we’re always plugging away at them, and it’s that work that keeps us from going back out there. Speaking personally, that’s the work that keeps me from relapsing.

My group has spent the last two Saturdays discussing Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

This step is so huge. When I think of Step 12, I think about how, after all my hard work from steps 1-11: the soul-searching, the digging, the honesty; after humbling myself before my higher power and the rest of the people in my life; after learning how to listen, how to take responsibility for myself (and myself alone), and how to let go; after learning how to live life on life’s terms, I now get to experience joy, peace and fearlessness, something I have sought my entire life, but could never find, so I chased numbness instead, with a bottle.

After all the work, I’ve had a spiritual awakening- which I simply define as “change”. I’ve done a lot of work. A LOT of work, and as a result, I’ve changed. My lens that I view the world through is no longer even remotely similar to what it once was. That, is a spiritual awakening.

My life, and the lives of those who depend on me, are a thousand times better than it used to be. In order to keep I that way, there are only two conditions: I have to remain sober, and I have to give back what I was given.

We’re not salespeople, so the good news is, I don’t have to cold-call anyone, or go door-to-door telling the world about my program of recovery. I don’t actually have to seek anyone out. There are a thousand ways for me to be of service to other alcoholics without ever putting another human being on the spot or making someone else uncomfortable. My program is one of attraction, not of promotion, as the old-timers like to say. We don’t advertise- we live our lives authentically, and as fellow alcoholics decide they want what we have, they may choose to come to us and inquire about what we’re doing differently.

Probably one of the first things people think of when they think of 12th step work is sponsorship. Yes, I can sponsor alcoholics that want what I have, and are looking to get sober. By sponsoring them, I can walk them through the 12 steps, just as my sponsor has done for me, and as her sponsor has done for her.

As an introvert, sponsoring other alcoholics doesn’t come naturally to me just yet, and I haven’t had the best of luck so far. What I have done, that also counts, that I did enjoy, was to chair some meetings, volunteer for service work (like cleanup after meetings, set up before meetings, etc), and most recently, I had the opportunity to share my story at a rehab facility.

But that isn’t all. Step 12 isn’t solely about taking the message to other alcoholics… there is so much more in this step, if only we look deeply enough to find it!

Speaking personally, one of the coolest things about step 12 is all the other hidden gems found in there. We’re taught in step 12, for example, to take all the lessons we’ve learned in this program and practice them in all our affairs.

We need to apply this stuff in real life, not just during our meetings, or while we’re actively working on recovery. Do it while we’re on the clock at work, do it while we’re interacting with our spouses, our kids, our friends. Even while we’re standing behind that prick in line in front of us at the grocery store. Do it all the time. This advice is absolutely invaluable for an otherwise judgmental, resentful person like myself. It’s a gentle reminder to treat all people- even the most difficult and hateful- as I would a newcomer to recovery. To keep my mind open, and remember that I don’t know everyone else’s struggles, nor is anyone else’s behavior in my control.

There are many, many other lessons to take away from Step 12, but the last one I’ll touch on has to do with maturity. The step talks about how, even as adults, we alcoholics tend to be “childish, emotionally sensitive and grandiose”. After reading that passage, I was too busy laughing- from self-recognition- to be offended. It goes on to talk about how we have such a hard time acknowledging that our adult dreams are often truly childish.

Reading this passage, I was reminded of a time when I was in my late 30s, and was trying to verbalize to someone why I felt like a total failure in my professional life. I was working for a fortune 100 company, closing in on a solid 6 figure income. As a high-functioning alcoholic, I’d managed to do well in the company. I had full benefits, lots of perks, had the luxury of working from home, and was the chief bread-winner of my family by many, many thousands of dollars per month.

The reason I felt like a failure? Because as a child, I had wanted to be either a Broadway star or an Opera Singer, and here I was, in my late 30s, having accomplished neither of those things.

I couldn’t be grateful for what I had accomplished- true success by any reasonable person’s standards, because I could not let go of that silly, childhood dream. Childhood dreams are great, of course. However, when we can’t even acknowledge our current state of success because we can’t see past the make-believe games we used to play as grade-school children, that is the mark of immaturity. In my case, I was truly devastated. Something was wrong in my brain, and I needed serious help.

Eventually, I got the help.

Today, I’m one day shy of 16 months sober.

All I know is, it works if you work it.

Posted in C-Haze

The Magic Beans

Let’s talk about medication, or as I like to call mine, The Magic Beans.

I had to come to terms with a lot of different things when I initially decided to get sober. I had to recognize and own the damage I’d done to myself and to those I love, and I had to get out of denial and realize that while I’d never been fired from a job or been in legal trouble because of my drinking, it was still causing problems in my life.

Big problems.

It’s not an unrelated fact, for example, that I’ve been divorced twice. Relationship failures can be attributed, at least in part (large part, likely), to my drinking.

Another fact, common amongst we alcoholics, is that of mental illness. The folks over at say that those suffering mental health issues account for approximately 69% of total alcohol consumption.

In my experience, most of us suffering from addiction did not start over-indulging in our drugs/drinks of choice because we are bad people looking for a party. Many of us, myself included, started using as a means to self-medicate this thing, this something deep inside of us that we knew didn’t feel quite right, but we couldn’t put our fingers on.

I suffer from anxiety, for example. Rooms full of people scare me to death- I will literally lose sleep for days leading up to events that I know will force me into contact with lots of people. Especially if it’s people I don’t know.

I also historically suffer from bizarre mood swings. I’ll be utterly depressed, unable to get out of bed and perform even the most simple of tasks for weeks, only to wake up one day, without warning, full of energy and ideas, ready to take the world by storm.

I’ll obsess over a single idea ad nauseam, and am prone to fits of rage over the smallest, simplest of things.

The mood swings, anxiety and inexplicable rage made me miserable. I’d been miserable for as long as I can remember. I stopped trusting myself- my mood swings made me prone to making irrational decisions- and started loathing who I was.

I used alcohol to dull all of that stuff. It helped eliminate the anxiety and tempered my rage, because it made me care less about everything. It’s really hard to get worked up into a rage over something you honestly can’t be bothered to give two shits about.

When I got sober, after that “pink cloud” of gratitude that I was no longer drinking wore off, all those symptoms- the rage, the anxiety, the mood swings- came back with a vengeance. Before long, I knew I had two choices: get help, or relapse.

Nervous, but determined, I schlepped to my doctor’s office. I explained my symptoms – in tears – and begged for some relief.

As a result of that visit, and some accompanying psychological/psychiatric tests, I walked out of the room with a diagnosis:

Bi-Polar II.

I was terrified. I always suspected I was crazy, and now I have the proof. It took me a long time – months and months – to be able to say the name of my illness out loud. I couldn’t acknowledge that I suffer from this disease, even as I bravely scolded others whenever I felt they were being inconsiderate to those with mental illness.

The one and only thing that scared me more than a diagnosis of Bi-Polar disorder was my fear of relapsing.

Thankfully, that fear made me take the medications my doctor prescribed me. I was put on an anti-depressant to keep my moods from sinking too low, and an anti-psychotic to keep my moods from getting too high – thus, avoiding both depression and mania.

In a matter of weeks, I was a different person. The mood swings have dissipated, my anxiety is all-but gone, and I can function at a level I now know most people consider “normal”, but for me is nothing short of beautifully, miraculously high.

We had to do a little tweaking to get the right combinations at the right doses, and I’d be lying if I claimed to have no side effects. Indeed, the first two weeks on these new meds I had to go to bed a full 12 hours before I needed to wake up in the morning, due to the coma-like state the meds put me in.

Over time, however, the side-effects straightened themselves out, and what remained is the Real Me; the person I was always meant to be. The one who isn’t handicapped by crippling anxiety and mood swings. The one who can be funny and sarcastic and cute in a room full of strangers without having a drink to dull my fears.

Soon, others began to notice.

“You just seem different,” they’d say. “Something in your tone of voice… I’m just not sure what it is….”

They may not know what it is, but I definitely do.

It’s The Magic Beans.

Posted in C-Haze

My Return

I stepped away from writing for a while… I actually stepped away from everything for a while.

Now, however, I’m back.

Sober, happy and (dare I say it) healthy.

Life is good, like really, really good. I don’t think I honestly believed all the positive stories I’d been told about what the world looks like when viewed through the lens of sobriety. I just knew I couldn’t keep going at the rate I was going… knew I had to stop drinking… and then, before I knew what was happening, my world fell apart.

I’ve picked up the pieces, and what I’ve managed to build looks so much better than anything I thought I was capable of creating. Better than anything I’ve ever had in my entire life, in fact.

I understood myself only after I destroyed myself. And only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I really was.

-Sade Andria Zavala

That quote tells the story of me; most especially in the last year and a half. The process hasn’t ended. I’m still knee deep in “fixing” myself, but I’ve made so much progress, and I really like – maybe even love – who I’ve become.

The work has been hard as hell on some days. Between recovery and counseling, I’ve had to face truths I never wanted to face. Truths that I actively sought to never have to acknowledge, and truths I avoided for many years by drinking and running as a means to escape.

I had to surrender, and then I had to listen. I had to follow the instructions of those who are doing what I want to do. Living the way I want to live.

Most significantly, other than getting sober, I had to acknowledge the truth of my illness. Not just the illness of alcoholism, of addiction, but my mental illness.

It took me years to be able to say the words, “I have bi-polar disorder.”

I had to acknowledge it, own it, and get treatment.

I’ve had to survey the damage years of living the life of a virtual fugitive has done. The damage I’ve done to myself, and to those that love me. Then I had to own it. All of it.

Those that were supposed to, stayed with me. Others didn’t last through the process. And that’s ok.

Today, I’m grateful. I’m loved by others, and I’m loved by myself. I have more than I’ve ever had, and I am sober.

I get it now. I see the life I’ve always wanted on the horizon, and I’m ready to grab it and embrace it. Ready to do it.